Tonight, I find myself on yet another transatlantic flight and nothing gets me more stressed than overnight travel. Something to do with the anxiety, dark, and claustrophobia, I suppose, but I am in for a long sleepless evening. I want to know the superpower of those dozing around me. Grrr.
I never anticipated going back to this blog. It seemed like it had served a purpose, one I needed at a point of time. It was my digital version of standing on a mountain, screaming into the wind. Futile, yet therapeutic.
It amazes and humbles me that people still reach out about adoption. These readers have stumbled upon the blog either via a news article or an archived CBC interview. Admittedly, these emails are rarer these days and I generally refer them on to people more current with the issues. I have passed on a torch no one really wants or deserves.
I also received many weird messages; people who had tenuous leads on babies in need (hint: that is not how it works, and it’s illegal), or my personal favourite: the charming men who were awfully damn confident they could get me pregnant. The hardest ones are the unexpected emails urging us to try again. When they arrive in my inbox, they become the only secret I hide from my husband. I know you mean well, but the door is firmly and forever closed. No exceptions. No Disney ending. Close curtains, exit stage right.
Mostly, people want to know if we are okay. Thank you. Yes, we are okay. Often readers ask because they themselves are reaching the conclusion of their own painful experience with adoption in Ontario. There are a surprising number of these. They want reassurance they, too, will one day have a default setting of normal. I cannot answer that for you. I know your pain in my heart, but in good faith can promise nothing. As for us, we are different. Unexpectedly different, but moving on.
Basically, we have an acknowledged scar.
What I have discovered is being a woman of a certain age without children is tricky terrain to navigate, especially in the workplace. There is an assumption I only care about my career and have forsaken family life for it. This makes me think: a) don’t people google people anymore?!?! I have been on the nightly news more often than I would like as the patron saint of failed adoptions #justsayin’; and b) what difference would it make if I did?
Still, the stigma surrounding the childless woman is pervasive in a way I do not think it is for men, which is something I find insulting to my husband. There is no adequate room for him to be accepted and it hurts me when I see this. As for me being a “non-mom”, I am hyper aware of this anomaly. I recently landed my dream job. It is something I was so ecstatic and proud of; something which took two years of risk and hard graft to get to. A colleague remarked, “you probably made it because you don’t have any children”. Well then. I bet you are great fun at parties.
When people I meet ask me how many children I have, I refer to my answer as “the fart in an elevator”. I have to let it out, no one wants to acknowledge it, and there is always an awkward silence whilst we both try and recover. I have gotten better at it, I think. My response is a rapid, “We don’t actually have children but tell me about your family”. It gives an opportunity to gracefully exit the topic…more like a tiny butt peep that could be politely mistaken for a squeaky shoe sole. And no, I am not on a tirade about assuming people have families. People do. It’s a natural question.
That said, the role of a career woman without a family can breed contempt and suspicion, ironically most often amongst other career women. I was at a work event where a colleague brought in her newborn. For the record, I am not sad around children and embrace all of my friends who have let me graciously be an auntie. It works for both sides – I have a lot of love and disposable income. I am also very good at water balloon fights.
On this particular day, this baby was not enjoying the crowd and spent quite a bit of time wailing their little lungs out. From across the room, a colleague (who had three children and knew our situation) shouted, “you should try picking her up, Lori *smirk*”. Talk about dropping the gauntlet dripping with oestrogen. If she ever reads this blog, my only words would be: I envy people who have not met you.
Luckily, these are the outliers. People are generally respectful and we have been fortunate to have many rally around us, especially when another news item about CAS comes out and we are brought up. Likewise, we are appreciative of those who stuck by us when we were not at our best. A special shout out to the childhood friend who continued to invite us to their family swimming party for eight years, even though we declined every one with a fake excuse because it was too overwhelming to see our peers with children all at once. But you persisted and when we finally attended, all of you welcomed us with open arms. We are grateful.
So what about now? Personally, I do not want to talk about our story much more. We became little wind-up dolls; mention CAS and we could spin for hours. I was public with the blog and advocacy for a purpose, but some things now need to stay whispered across held hands with my husband only. I still sit on the Board of Adopt4Life, a secular organisation dedicated to increasing permanency options for all youth in Ontario, and also provide valuable resources to awaiting and those parenting. If you are at all involved in adoption or youth in care, you need to visit.
For those who want to support us, this is our ask: there is a provincial election coming up and candidates will be coming to your door. Please, ask them about their stance on improving services for children in care. Do they support equal parental leave for adoptive parents? Do they plan on addressing the shortcomings of CAS? We need those elected to stay accountable to our youth. Also spare a thought for the poor candidates knocking on our door….I will be tenacious.
As for me, grief is a very nebulous thing. This will always be a part of me, but it can no longer be my epithet. I need to be other things now. I need to get over my fear of flying. I need my empty arms to become open ones.
To everyone, thank you.