Can you tell me a little bit about your background? How did you and your husband meet?
Did you both always want to have children?
I was born and grew up in a suburb of Montreal, the youngest of four kids in my family. I have a twin brother and two older sisters. My childhood was loud and busy and lots of fun. I left Montreal and moved to Toronto when I was 19 to attend university. I graduated from Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program in 2002, and for the next several years I worked on various commercials, TV shows, and movies.
My husband David and I met in the summer of 2007 while we were both working on a movie filming in Toronto. We hit it off instantly and have rarely been apart a day since. We got married in 2009 and we live in an east-end neighborhood with our son Levi and rescue dog Sherman.
When we first started dating, David told me that he knew he wouldn’t be able to have children. He had cancer when he was 12 (bone lymphoma) and his fertility was severely affected as a result of the cancer treatments. When he said he couldn’t have kids, I could sense his pain. I think he was trying to protect himself because he knew it wouldn’t be an easy road. I always wanted kids, but didn’t push the matter (as we were a new couple). But as our relationship progressed, I could see what an amazing uncle he was to our nieces and nephews and I knew he would be the best father. I think he knew it too. After we got married, we tried to get pregnant on our own for about a year, but nothing was happening so we were referred to a fertility clinic. In total, we did 12 procedures (including 3 IVFs, 6 medicated IUIs using donor sperm, and we even tried with 5 donor embryos) without any luck. My infertility is unexplained.
When did you decide to adopt?
After three years of fertility treatments, we accepted that a pregnancy was probably not in the cards for us. It was really rough on us, emotionally and financially. We were in therapy. It was draining – and it was not the way we had wanted to start our marriage. After our final negative result (and about 50K later…), we decided that it was time for us to try our luck at adoption. By the end of our treatments, we were using donor gametes anyway, so our genetics weren’t in play and we were fine with that. We just wanted to have a family and had to figure out how to build it in a different way. We researched the three types of adoptions (public, international, and private domestic) and determined that we would try for a private adoption right here in Ontario. We were slightly apprehensive going into it because so many people told us how rare it was, and we didn’t understand what was involved in an open adoption (which most private adoptions are in Ontario now).
What was the adoption process like?
What did you have to do?
In Ontario, every prospective adoptive parent is required to complete two stages to become “adopt ready.” The first part includes 27 hours of courses called P.R.I.D.E (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) and the second part is a home study (which means we a hired a social worker to visit us, conduct about five interviews in our home and write up a report that covers every aspect of our lives). We also had to complete the other necessary paperwork like Police and RCMP checks, medicals, financials, references, etc. After a few months of intense effort, we were “adopt ready!”
The next part is… finding a child. Because in private placements the birthparents get to choose who they place their baby with, it’s up to the adoptive parents to market themselves. The traditional way to do this is printing up profile booklets full of photos and bios on the parents, their families, home, hobbies, etc. Then, you register these booklets with agencies or lawyers (called licensees) who are licensed to do adoptions in Ontario. There are about 12 private licensees in the province, and a few agencies as well. But, once you register your profile booklet with them, you have to sit back and wait for a call. Once a birth mother is referred to a licensee, she is presented with several choices and you just have to hope that you are chosen! After a match is made, there’s lots more paperwork (legal agreements, social work stuff, meetings, birth plans. etc.) and then the file has to be sent to the Ministry of Youth and Child Services for approval of the placement.
Another way to connect with birth parents is through a private match – adoptive parents (like us) have to figure out ways to market themselves to the masses – to get the word out (many make websites and post them on social media as a way to find those birthparents and connect with them). I don’t know the exact stats, but we were told that about half the private adoptions every year come from word of mouth, and people connecting on their own.
But even after a match is made, the paperwork is in place and the file is submitted, it’s not set in stone. Even after the baby is born and goes home with the adoptive parents, the birth mother still has a revocation period of minimum a month (or longer) where she can change her mind and the baby is to be returned to her. That’s the part that many people don’t understand. It’s really hard to try to not bond with that infant because in the back of your mind, it’s not official until it is. It’s a big risk to take (both emotionally and financially).
I should also mention that the number of private placements in Ontario every year is pretty low. I’ve heard anywhere from 50-75 adoptions per year.
How did Levi come into your life?
Back in August of 2013, we shared our adoption website on Facebook with the hopes that it would result in a lead. A producer from Global News saw our site and thought it would make an interesting human interest story (couples turning to social media), so we were featured on the news. Levi’s birth mother saw the segment and emailed us that evening. The craziest part was that the story aired on our wedding anniversary, which was the same day we were contacted! After getting to know us a little better, the birth parents officially “chose us” to become Levi’s parents. We were over the moon! We decided on the name “Levi” because it means “joined in harmony.” We have an open adoption, which means that we send email updates with photos to the parents every few months and we have visits about two times a year. Most private adoptions are open, which simply means that identifying information is exchanged. It’s up to every individual case to come up with their own “openness agreement,” so it will look different for every adoptive family.
What is your life like with Levi?
Can you tell me a bit about your son?
Life is pretty normal and a little crazy (which is par for the course with 2 year olds!) I’m a stay-at-home mom and I feel really lucky that we get to spend our days together. I tried going back to work when he was smaller, but I was miserable and very quickly realized that after working so incredibly hard to become a mom, I wanted to stay home with him a bit longer. We have a lot of fun together and I wake up every day feeling really blessed.
Levi is an amazing little boy who is outgoing, curious and energetic. So much energy! His smile lights up the room and his giggle is the best sound in the world. He loves fruit and we call him our little fish because we can’t keep him away from water. Levi loves his trains and cars, anything with wheels actually. He has such a kind disposition – he always has. He was such a pleasant baby (we joke that we maybe it was because we struggled so much beforehand, that we were blessed with a happy, easy-going baby). He really is sweet and very loving. He loves animals and is really gentle with our dog Sherman. We know that he will make a fantastic big brother.
I know I keep saying this, but I feel so blessed that we were chosen to be Levi’s parents. Every parent feels this way about their child(ren), but it’s true: he’s the best little boy and we are so proud of him every single day.
You are looking to adopt a second child.
How can potential birth mothers learn more about you and your husband?
Now that a couple of years have passed, we would love to add another member to our crew. So, in the hopes that lightning might strike twice, we want to get the word out there again and get some more exposure. Word of mouth is a great way to make connections. The thinking is, maybe you don’t know someone who is looking into this, but maybe you know someone who knows someone.
On a bit of a sad note – we had a failed placement back in June this year. A birth mother chose us and we did all the steps outlined above and our file went into the Ministry. Unfortunately, she changed her mind after she gave birth to her son. In private adoptions, the adoptive parents assume all the financial risk (as the lawyers and social workers don’t work for free, regardless of the outcome) – so not only was it a huge hit for us emotionally, but also financially (luckily the lawyer was really compassionate and cut her hours in half). We took the summer off to grieve that loss and enjoy summer with our son. We resumed our search in the fall and are choosing to remain positive and hopeful that the next situation that comes up is the right one for us in the end.
As mentioned above, besides registering our booklets with lawyers, we are trying to market ourselves by getting the word out because the more exposure we have, the higher the chances of a match. We were told to tell everyone we know and for them to tell everyone. Social media is a great platform to get our story out. So we are getting our website out there again so that people can find out a bit about us, along with how to contact us or our social worker. I am hoping that people will consider sharing our site (especially for those in Ontario) – we’d be so grateful! You never know who might see it and one ‘share’ truly might make all the difference! Please check us out here:
What advice do you have for people who are looking to adopt a child?
My advice, first off, is to do your homework. There are many different types of adoptions and you really have to research them all to determine which type would be the best for you. It’s important to have a true understanding of everything that’s involved (both before the adoption and more importantly afterwards) because there’s no such thing as an easy adoption and you should try to prepare and educate yourself as best you can. This includes talking to other adoptive families. Maybe you don’t know anyone personally, but I bet you know someone who does. I have found that people want to help. Ask them about their experiences, ask for tips, ask about anything you want to know about. That’s what we did and that’s what we now do for others. Not only is it good karma, but it’s simply being a good person. I always treat others the way I would want to be treated (my mother has being saying that to me as far back as I can remember).
Also – I would talk to grown up adoptees. Before we adopted, I tried to take a step back from it. Of course we wanted children: we wanted to experience parenthood and have a family. But then you also have to think about it from the perspective of that child. No matter what the path is to a child joining another family through adoption, you have to remember that adoption begins with loss. It’s just a fact. That child is losing his/her roots. It’s our job as parents to not only love and support our child unconditionally, but also to help him feel secure with his identity as an adoptee.
And finally, I would say that you have to accept that becoming parents through adoption is not going to be easy. I have heard this countless times – people say “well why don’t you just adopt.” Those people have no idea what’s involved. At first, I was upset at the fact that we essentially have to jump through hoops to prove that we would be good parents. But, being down in the dumps won’t help you get to where you want to be. It’s important to stay optimistic and positive and focus on your goal. I suppose that’s good advice for life in general.