Whenever I look back on 2009 I am in awe of the number of significant life events we went experienced in twelve short months. The frequency and significance of milestones was in itself overwhelming. I have to have some grace and love for the people we were then, we were going through A LOT.
In the midst of settling Justice into our family, working through Tapanga’s regression, and adjusting to my new job (and an hour long commute), we decided to put our house on the market! With my job close to our family, it was time to transplant our little family to where our roots ran deep. We wanted to move to either Barrhead, where our family lived, or Westlock, where my job was. The two towns are only thirty minutes apart, so either way we would be closer to our family. We listed our house, did a few recommended upgrades, and hoped our house would sell quickly. While the house was on the market, I would occasionally stay in Barrhead with my parents to cut down on the commute; particularly when I had a several shifts in a row. The summer of 2009 was such a transitionary, unsettled time!
When Dylan resigned from the job he loved at General Body and began working for his dad at Cornerstone Automotive in Barrhead, we decided that Barrhead would be our home once again. We moved our clothes, a few toys, and our pets into my parents basement and began the process of looking for a house. I looked at a couple of postings online, and one in particular caught my eye. It looked pretty interesting so Dylan and I called the realtor and arranged a viewing. The house was very dated, everything was original. In addition, the house had been a rental property for nearly 30 years, so it desperately needed renovations. Despite it’s limitations, the house called out to us, and it was listed for a good price. We contacted our bank and, after some delays, they approved the purchase of the home whether or not our Edmonton house sold!
It is so uplifting for me to look back and see the hand of God directing our lives that year; more divine timing was about to occur. Someone made an offer on our Edmonton home right after our mortgage approval came through! The offer made was significantly less than what we were asking but, because housing prices had spiked after our purchase, we still made a very significant profit. The bank was able to not only clear our car loan and previous mortgage, but they were also able to keep our new mortgage payments very reasonable. In addition, we were given a significant cheque that would allow us to do the most important renovations immediately. To this day I do not know how the bank did it, but I am so thankful.
So, in October 2009, we moved into our “new” Barrhead home. The next eight months or so we adjusted to life as a family and renovated like crazy. It was a time of settling in, of turning a house into our home, and of bonding as a family. Although we were still busy, those eight months were a much needed break after the insane pace of the previous ten months.
Our first holiday season as a family, in Barrhead, December 2009.
When life began to settle in and become comfortable, Dylan and I discussed whether or not we would try to have any biological children. We both agreed that we would like to, but that if it didn’t happen no extraordinary measures would be taken. While we knew we would like a biological child as well, we did not feel we needed to have biological children for our family to be complete. We loved our girls whole-heartedly and, while there was of course room in our heart for more children, we didn’t feel a void in our lives. More children would bring more joy, but in our minds we lacked nothing. If we were meant to have more children, we thought, it would happen.
As it turns out, we were meant to have more children. In the summer of 2010, I became pregnant with Brock. The girls were very excited, but I think Tapanga was also apprehensive. While the girls had been in our homes for over a year, legally they still were not ours. As my belly got bigger, so did Tapanga’s insecurities. Though she never verbalized any fears, she became less settled and began acting out more. I did not realize how unsettled Tapanga was until I was called by her kindergarten teacher, who shared with me that Tapanga was crying quite often at school. Tapanga’s teacher was concerned that although her academics were appropriate, her behaviour suggested she may not have the maturity to move on to grade one. This phone call came in February, and I was due in early March. I shared with the teacher that the adoption was still not finalized, and that I truly felt Tapanga would become more settled once the baby came. While she never said it, I believed with all my heart that Tapanga was scared that once we had a baby of our own we would not love her anymore.
Understandably, we were very impatient for our adoption papers. Our adoption caseworker told us in February that our case would be going to court soon, and that we would know before she did when the adoption finalized. We really wanted the adoption to be finalized as soon as possible. In our minds, their papers should be in place before the baby came.
Though we wanted the adoption finalized before the baby arrived, that was not how it was meant to be. On March 1 2011, at about 7 pm, my water broke. Dylan was working an evening shift at the time (he had moved on from his dad’s automotive shop to Pollard Banknote), so I called him home. We got the girls ready for bed and when it was time to head to the hospital we called his sister Megan and she came over to stay with the girls. Brock entered the world via emergency caesarian section five days early, March 2, 2011 at 0320.
Baby Brock, and our first picture as a family of 5, March 3, 2011.
Brock was absolutely perfect in every way. Despite having a true knot in his cord, the fast actions of his nurse and doctor prevented any complications to his health. A few days after his grand entrance we returned home and began adjusting to life with our first baby, a beautiful baby boy who did not value sleep nearly as much as his exhausted parents.
Nearly a week after returning home, March 11, we happened to stop at the mail box on our way home. This moment is another one of those permanently etched memories. Sitting in the passenger seat of the van, with our three children in the back, staring at the two pickup slips in my hands. Our adoption worker’s words from a few weeks prior came flooding into my mind: “You’ll know the adoption has finalized before I do. You’ll get a registered letter in the mail, and it will be your adoption orders” In my hand was the pickup, for a registered letter. I would say the exhaustion of having a new baby contributed to the tears, but to this day I cannot reflect on that memory and hope to have dry eyes. I don’t think I could even speak as I sat there, staring at the slip. I just showed Dylan the paper and we drove directly to pick up the letter. While Dylan ran in to pick up the letter I stayed in the van, trying unsuccessfully to control my emotions.
Everything we had worked nearly three years for was finally legally complete. These girls had belonged to us, in our hearts, for so long. Finally they were ours in the eyes of the law. That feeling, oh, it is the exact same as the feeling you get when the doctor first places your new baby in your hands. The very same.
I don’t know what it is like to wonder if I belong with my family, to wonder if I might have to leave one day. I don’t know what that’s like, but unfortunately Tapanga does. What does it feel like to be taken from your birth family, and then placed with a new family? What does it feel like to finally know you do belong with your new family? I could try and find the words to express the importance of belonging. The importance of closure. The importance of adoption. I could try and find words, but Tapanga’s words bring understanding to what she went through in way my words never could. The night the adoption papers came in we were celebrating with a cake, and Tapanga turned to my parents and grandparents and declared: “Ain’t nobody kicking me out of THIS family now!”
The importance of belonging.
Finally. FINALLY. FINALLY! The fear of losing them was finally gone. Their fear of loosing us was finally gone. They were ours and NOTHING would ever change that.