by Linda Filosa-Piquette
Today is November 8th. It was 4 years ago today that my husband, Benoit, and I left for Cali, Colombia (chiquitines) to adopt our 3 older children. We presently have 4 children. Caroline was adopted from CRAN in January 2000. When we were married 10 years ago, we had everything planned. We would have 3-5 children, 2 years apart, and they would arrive right away. Of course, life often never turns out as planned. Having friends from Colombia, we decided to register with SDN for a young baby. At the time the wait was very long and Francine mentioned the possibility to adopt older siblings. We had never thought about this option. However, we began to think about the idea. For me, personally, our decision to adopt came after many long and painful stages. The first stage was in accepting and making peace with the fact that we would not have our children as we had planned (pregnancy, childbirth, etc.). The next stage was in accepting that our baby would arrive through adoption. Now we had a new stage to consider, the adoption of older children. I must admit we had initial worries: would we be able to handle 3 older children at once, what about our desire to cuddle a baby, and finally I am ashamed to admit we worried about how people would react… Many people were not initially supportive of the idea and thought we were a little crazy to even consider it. However, for us, it felt right. We had always wanted a large family and we were very confident and comfortable around children. I had taught for many years and Benoit treated many children everyday. We also had large extended families. We fnally chose to listen to our hearts and not other people. An important lesson that I have learned since adopting my children is that it is great to get advice and support from family or friends but you must be strong in your own beliefs and feelings. We were very lucky to have the friendship and support of a couple who adopted 3 children from Chiquitines a few months before we did. Their advice and help were important than and now. We often face similiar problems/challenges with our children. However each of their children is unique as our children are unique and different. You cannot and should not think, OK, that family had that problem or experience so I will have the same. Every child, family and adoption may be similiar in some senses but each is different. Even with our concerns we were mesmerized by those 3 beautiful faces. Each time we would call Francine or Martine with our worries they would say, look into their eyes, everything will be OK. When I would do this I felt reassured. Even as we boarded the plane, I felt a strong inner sense of peace that overshadowded my concerns. It is now 4 years later. Our children are, 11,10,7 and 2. There have been periods of feeling overwhelmed. We have faced challenges. Many of these challenges were with a school system that would like each child to fit neatly into a compartment and than not knowing what to do when they do not. Our older daughter especially took much time and patience before feeling secure. Each of our children have very individual personalities and it took time for each of us to learn to live together as a family. Having said all that I can honestly say that our decision to adopt our 4 children were the best decisions that we have ever made. Our children bring us incredible joy. We love watching them grow and change each day. The challenges that we faced have made us stronger as people and parents. We are more united as a couple and have more confidence in our abilities and decisions. I have learned that you cannot plan life, it comes with many surprises. It is best to see these surprises as ways to grow and change. We no longer seek as much guidance from others and now turn more toward each other. I now see the world through the eyes of a dark skinned person and it has given me more insight and a totally different perspective. In the last few years and especially since volunteering with SDN I have heard many people express misconceptions and pre-judged opinions toward adoption. Some of these are: The people that choose to adopt older children are saints. I have been called a Mother Teresa on more than one occasion. This is not even remotely close to who I am. Those who adopt children, younger or older, usually do so for the purely selfish reason that they would like a family. Those few couples who adopt because they would like to save a child are misguided. In my opinion, this should never be a reason to adopt. An adopted child should not be a project. A child should be adopted because you wish to share your life and love with another person. Perhaps those that do adopt have a little more faith in themselves and in life in general that all will be well. Life comes with no guarantees. I wish for my children a life of love, health and happiness. I believe that their chances of having these things would be the same if they were my biological children, adopted at 2 months or 6 years old. Those children who are adopted are SO lucky or poor them. Our children are not objects to be pitied neither should they have the feeling that they are so lucky because we saved them. They were not lucky to be born under the circumstances that they were born under. Our children love and appreciate us but like all children can be selfish and take us for granted. They see us as all children see their parents. My child will never feel or be treated differently because of the color of his skin. Unfortunately racism exists. Many times I have heard, oh my child will be raised in a color blind world noone will ever see him as different. We are very lucky to live in a multi-cultural community, however, we have experienced racism on more than one occasion. Sometimes it is subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Denying that this happens or will happen does a disservice to your children. We discuss this openly and talk about how hurtful these comments can be, however, we try to focus on how we can change this and deal with this. I feel it is my responsibility to acknowledge this behavior and to listen to my childrens feelings. My family/child will be perfect. Being a parent is rewarding but challenging. Do not set up expectations of how the perfect family/child/mom should be. Our children have many of our values and traits, however, they are very different from us and each other. Our children and family are wonderful, but noone is perfect. Going into an adoption with a pre-conceived notion of exactly how you will feel, how your trip will be, how your child will be, can sometimes lead to disappoint and will definitely cause you alot of stress. Older children will not truly bond to you and feel like yours. This, in my experience, is totally untrue. Our older children are no less bonded to us than our youngest, who was adopted at 3 months. I felt many overwhelming feelings both times that I saw my children for the first time. However, my love and feelings for them have grown tremendously. As all 4 children get older and display more of their character it becomes more challenging as a parent, but the love intensifys. With time you realize the true meaning of the words, unconditional love. Love takes time. As for not feeling like ours, the are not ours in the sense that they belong to us. I do not believe that children are belongings. They are individuals who share their lives with us, they belong only to themselves. And now a little advice: Open your mind to some new possiblities regarding your adoption. Do not restrict yourself from a wonderful family/child/experience because of the sex, color or age of a child. Maybe your child will be a little older or darker than you imagined, or maybe your ideal family of one boy and one girl will change into a family of 3 boys. See this as an opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself. Families come in all sizes and colors. My oldest son often talks about how difficult and pain it was being at Chiquitines for over a year and watching other children leave with families while he waited. He often asks, why wasnt I chosen, I was a good kid?. To this great student, loving brother, captain of his hockey team and all around amazing kid, I answer, there was and is nothing wrong with you – you were waiting for your destiny which was to be with us. This is our reality but the true reality is that at 7 years old, he was a little too old, too dark skinned , and he was one of a sibling group of 3, which included 2 boys. The thought of this breaks my heart. He often mentions friends left behind, I hope someone was as open as we were and that these children found families. Our family came about in a way that we never imagined. Each day we look at our children knowing deep in our hearts that we were all somehow meant to be together. We are thankful that these are the people we get to share our lives with each day. We are fulfilled in a way we never imagined. We love each other in a way that we do not love anyone else. We know each other in a way that we do not know anyone else. We have a bond that is stonger than any other bond. We are a family, we are happy and that is all that truly matters.