Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Predictability is really important for adopted kids. Have you ever started a new job and been unsure of what's expected of you, what you're allowed to talk about, where you're expected to sit or stand, when you're allowed to go home? I've had my share of sketchy jobs and I can tell you that the 'unkown' can be pretty darn stressful!

When our kids come home, it is our job to let them know what our routine and family guidelines are (at an age appropriate level) and to stick to that routine as much as possible. Our home is a strange place to our kids and the more they know about what goes on, the less confused and scared they will be. Knowing that they will be fed multiple times a day can reduce food hoarding and eating disorders. Knowing that bedtime comes after story time will help them prepare for a time of day that can be scary for traumatised children (a lot of traumas happen at night).

You know what? I can't wait to have some routines in place and have an excuse to try and stick to them! Maybe I can convince AH to let me try making routine charts for us now... I get the feeling that might fall under the category of crazy-control-freak-wife. But that shouldn't be news to him :)

I could see these being useful for AH and I some all mornings!

Friday, 15 June 2012


From time to time this blog will get a fresh coat of paint. A little change is good for you.

I like to keep things fresh.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

invisible disability

Let's say you're at the grocery store. You walk into the cereal isle and come across a parent with a child. The child is talkative, persuasive and begging for a sugary cereal. The child is about eight years old and starts banging on the shelves and the shopping cart when the parent tries to explain that they are not buying that cereal. The child starts to have a melt down. The child is having a tantrum, the kind that you would expect to see from a two year old. This is not the way that an eight year old with an age appropriate vocabulary usually acts. Those parents must spoil this child, they never say no. It is sad that this bad child has such bad parents.

Let's say you are walking down the street. You notice that a shop has planted some beautiful flowers on the boulevard. They are bright and fragrant. A young man walks by and notices the flowers. He moves quickly and starts picking them. The shop owner comes out and tells him that is vandalism. He continues to pick the flowers until the shop owner tells him to leave. It is too bad that man feels so entitled. He must have been spoilt as a child. It is sad that this bad man had such bad parents. 

It is so easy to assume we know all about people when we see the way they act in public. What it is not always easy to remember is that many people have invisible and often times, undiagnosed disabilities. A person with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) may look "normal", may speak with a "normal" vocabulary, may have a "normal" (or even above average) IQ. What they may not have is the ability to understand consequences, the ability to calm themselves down or the ability to understand instructions.

The young man picking the flowers may have thought that his girlfriend would like them. His brain could not make the connection that the flowers were not his to pick. He had a thought and his brain said "do it". The child in the store may have started feeling upset and soon that feeling took over. The child did not yet have the tools to stop the tantrum, even though this is something that he is working on with his parents at home.

1 out of every 100 Canadians are born with the affects of  FASD. This does not mean that their birth parents are bad people. 60% of people with FASD will end up in the criminal justice system. This does not mean that they are bad people. They have a physical, neurological disorder that makes it so that they cannot always understand cause and effect. People with FASD are not stupid. They are often frustrated, they are often misunderstood and they often do not get the help they need.

The affects of FASD are caused by a physical disability
not "bad behaviour"
Not every one affected by FASD gets into trouble. Many will go on to live semi-independent or independent lives. They may successfully complete school, successfully find employment and successfully raise children. You have probably met many people who have FASD and don't even know it. You might have friends with FASD and have no idea. FASD is a lifelong disability but early diagnosis, protective measures, learning aides, therapy and possibly medical intervention may help the affected person.

We do not know exactly how we feel about being the parents of a child with FASD. There are certain behaviours that we may find too difficult. This is only because of our own shortcomings but we need to be honest about those. We also have to be open to the possibility because the child/children that we adopt could end up developing new and difficult behaviours that lead to a diagnosis years after finalisation. If this happens, we will fight fiercely for them to have everything that they need to succeed to the best of their abilities.

Whew... long post! Want to read even more (you've got nothing better to do, right?)?
Check out this publication from the John Howard Society:  http://johnhoward.on.ca/pdfs/FactSheet_26_FASD_and_the_Criminal_Justice_System.pdf 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Don't play with your food...


I promised a happy post:

These are two toys that we have already bought. That's right folks, we're going to be the parents who make our kids play with vegetable toys. As if they weren't already traumatised enough...

sad babes

Disclaimer: Here are two questions that seem to come up in conversations either with our own friends or family or on adoption forums etc. Obviously, I am just learning about all of this. I am not an expert, nor do I claim to be. These are conclusions that AH and I have come to with research and learning and prayer and conversation. Our opinions on these matters may change, but this is what we're going with right now.

How old does a baby have to be to experience trauma?
Many experts agree that trauma to the mother even while the baby is still in utero can leave lasting neurological impacts on the developing foetus. After a baby is born, he has not learnt how to separate himself from his mother and therefore, sensing that his mother is in danger may cause his little brain and body to panic that he too is in danger. If something happens to mother, baby cannot recognise that he might be able to go on living without her. His little brain is telling him that if mother dies, baby dies. So even if a baby is not abused; living with abuse or danger can cause extreme stress to the developing mind. If a baby is being abused (physical, sexual, neglect), that stress may be compounded.

This is one of the many realities that must be faced in adoption. Sadly, our children are coming to us for a reason and that reason is not happy. In a perfect world, there would be no need for adoption. Birth parents would be given the supports they need to raise their children with help from the community. No one would be alone and children would be raised by "the village" if a parent was unable. When our children come to live with us and be loved by us, it is bitter-sweet because it means that they have been removed from the most important relationship of their young lives.

Should a child be told about trauma that they are too young to remember?

The simple answer is "yes". Children will ask questions about their past. They will ask questions about why they were adopted. Their past belongs to them, not me and I have no right to withhold it from them. Having knowledge about their life will help them understand some of their behaviours and fears.

We will be careful to use age appropriate language. We will be careful to consult professionals about the best ways to talk about these subjects. Luckily, anyone who knows us knows that we are not afraid of  subjects that some people may find difficult. I could have been voted "most likely to become a sex-ed teacher" in my high school yearbook (not that that was a category). Anyone who knows us also knows that we're kind of (understatement?) socialist thinkers so we won't be portraying our kid's pasts with stereotypes about "bad people". Colouring their birth-parents and situations as "bad" won't help our children. In fact, telling a child that they come from "bad" people may give them the belief that they are "bad" as well. I am thankful that AH and I are blessed with these outlooks.

I don't mean to make this entirely negative. Out of adoption can come beautiful, diverse, loving families who have a special outlook on the world. I just want to be clear that it is not all beautiful. I want to be clear that the trauma experienced by our future children, no matter how old they are, is very real. It is something personal that belongs to them. It is something that we must show respect for if we want to gain their trust. We want to gain their trust. When they trust us, they will be able to release some of their anguish and learn that the world isn't so scary after all.

Friday, 1 June 2012

personal post- the loss of the fantasy child

So far, a lot of the posts have seemed a little clinical. There is a lot of "book learning" to do and it is all really important. There are also a lot of emotions that AH and I have dealt with/still deal with. The fact is, at the end of the day, we will have little strangers in our home who are with us, for better or for worse and it will be up to us to make a family out of that situation. This is a post about one of the very personal aspects of this process.

From the time we are children, we have an idea of what our own children will be like. We think about the physical characteristics we will pass on. We think about the things that we'll teach them. We think about the way we'll take care of them. We think about how beautiful they'll be. We think about how smart they'll be. We know that the children that come from us will be perfect. When we are with our spouse, we think about the amazing traits that they will pass on- the things that we love about them.

This is all a fantasy. Any parent will tell you that no child turns out how you expect them too. In giving birth to a child, you cannot protect them from all "defects" or diseases. You cannot pick whether they get your blue eyes or your crooked teeth. But there is still a chance that some aspect of your 'fantasy child' will be realised.

Adoption is different. AH used the game Yahtzee to describe it. He says that when you give birth, it's like you've already got some dice on the table. No matter what you roll with the remaining dice, you already know some of the variables. With adoption, it's like putting all the dice back in the cup on your last roll and not knowing if you'll get a "Yahtzee" or your "chance" (not that your "chance" is a bad thing, many close games have been won on a "chance" score!).

When we made the decision to adopt it felt overwhelmingly "right" in a way that trying to have birth children never did. We are at times blissful, anxious, excited, serene and terrified (sometimes all at once); just like any other 'parents to be'. But it is important to accept the loss of the fantasy birth-child so that we can fully welcome our own children into our lives with no prejudice or presumption.