Ready and waiting: an adoption story
How do you experience the sweet pleasure of preparing for baby when you have no timeline for events? Phoebe Atkinson shares her family’s story of adoption.
Dave and Phoebe Atkinson made the decision to pursue adoption after five years of unexplained infertility. Their dream for a family was realised when Dave and Phoebe received a life-changing phone call with news that they had been chosen as adoptive parents for Harley. Phoebe and Dave kept the name their son’s birth mother had given him, to honour her and what she did for Harley.
The drive to nest is a powerful feminine force. Mamas-to-be go to great lengths to prepare for baby’s arrival. The folding of miniature clothes into perfectly curated piles in tidy drawers. The arranging of bottles and balms in descending height order. The careful positioning of heirloom ornaments emanating sentimental value.
As it turned out, nine months of pregnancy and preparation was not to be our pathway into parenthood. In fact, after five painful years of unexplained infertility, carrying out such precious tasks seemed like an elusive dream. And so, in a bid for self-preservation, I decided early on not to gather any pieces to fluff the nest.
For us there would be no choice-anxiety over capsules and buggies, no pre-purchased stocks of nappies and wet wipes, no baby-name books... No preparation. Just a phone call on an unmarked Monday that would turn our world upside down and make us a family by Friday. By one of God’s greatest blessings, we were chosen to be the adoptive parents to a beautiful baby boy.
Our conversation on the way to meet Harley turned from matters of the heart to matters of the mind. I caught Dave’s glances of disbelief and elation as we excitedly talked over each other, making mental lists of what needed to happen within the next four days. We needed a carseat! We needed a cot! We needed bottles! We needed dummies? We needed everything!
In a humbling bid to get us ready, our community rallied. While we spent every spare moment we could with our darling baby boy, our family and friends delivered pre-loved buggies and bassinets, stocked the fridge and freezer, and hung the bunting. Within four days our dear little village had made Harley a home.
Okay, so we have everything we practically need, but have we got what it takes to do this? Are we prepared? Do we have what this little boy needs of us?
In the days after Harley’s arrival, in the rare moments of pause, I poured over the back issues of OHbaby! Magazine that I had been given. Considering our situation and all the questions we had, I found great comfort in the words of psychologist and counsellor Jenny Sharkey. In an article about the power of love and attachment, she wrote of the incredibly significant influence “personal, affectionate and reliable care of our children has on every aspect of their development, from conception through to adulthood and into old age”. She concludes the article with this paragraph: “Love is a balm that heals a multitude of wounds. This is the key: keep on loving and keep cheering yourself on towards this goal, even in your moments of exhaustion and failure. Keep on realigning yourself back to that powerful place of warmth and support towards your family members (and to yourself). Love is all we need and it can literally change your family’s world!”
I decided that “Yes. We’ve got what he needs. We’ve got this”.
Perhaps, subconsciously, we prepare for our babies in the hope that we can prepare ourselves. Then all of a sudden those tiny bundles arrive, and we spend our days in the crazy haze of rocking and burping and changing and shushing. Our nights feeling around in the dark for the missing dummy. And we realise that no amount of planning, organisation or decoration could prepare us for the mammoth task and beautiful space we find ourselves in. And yet we really do have everything we need.
Six months after Harley’s arrival I found myself arranging bottles and balms in descending height order and I pinched myself. And remembered that in matters of fluffing the nest – it’s all just fluff.
ADOPTION IN NEW ZEALAND
Each year a small number of children in New Zealand are placed by their birth parents for adoption. Adoption is the legal transfer of parenting rights and responsibilities from birth parents to adoptive parents. Most adoptions in New Zealand are open adoptions, meaning that birth parents and adoptive parents maintain an ongoing relationship.
After a thorough education, approval and assessment process, those seeking to adopt a child prepare a family profile for birth parents to consider. There is no waiting list per se, an adoption depends on a birth parent choosing a family’s profile. This could take days or decades.
Birth parents decide who they want to adopt their child. Most want to meet the adoptive parents they are considering, which happens after birth. Even after a birth parent has chosen the family they want to adopt their child, birth mothers then must wait at least 12 days after giving birth to give consent for adoption. After the birth parents’ decision has been made, they sign their consent for adoption and the legal process begins.
Phoebe Atkinson worked as an intermediate school teacher and chaplain and is now a stay-at-home mum to two-year-old Harley. Her husband Dave is the creative and development director at The Parenting Place.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 38 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW