People & Places

Adoption and adaptation — Solo parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic

When I made the decision several years ago to adopt as a solo parent, the circumstances I imagined for myself and my child were very different from our current reality. We’re told to expect the unexpected when we become parents, but few of us anticipate having to raise our children in the midst of a global pandemic! 

A little background: in my twenties, I had a couple of significant relationships with people who already had children. Each time, when the relationship ended, I found myself reeling from the loss of the child in my life. Eventually, I concluded that if I wanted to have my own family, I would have to create it for myself. When I realized I really didn’t want to be pregnant and I wasn’t attached to the idea of having a biological child, adoption seemed like the best option for me.

The adoption process was incredibly eye-opening. It started with an information session ​in 2018 ​with the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa, followed by weekly group training sessions. After submitting the preliminary paperwork, I was also assigned a support worker who completed my ‘home study’ that consisted of a thorough inspection of my house, as well as several in depth conversations about my upbringing, relationships, routines, and life choices that would determine my suitability to parent. However, despite meeting all the requirements, I was told that as a solo parent it was unlikely that I would be chosen to adopt through the system. This was very discouraging, but I maintained hope that one day I would get ‘the call’. 

Then in August 2019, friends of mine told me they knew of someone in Nunavut who was making an adoption plan for their newborn baby. They asked if they could recommend me as the adoptive parent. Of course I said yes. 

My daughter Joy was born in January of this year. Her birth mother invited me to be in the delivery room, and Joy’s arrival into this world was profound and raw and magical. 

Photo by David Kawai

Before she was born, I very deliberately fostered a community of people who would serve as role models, caregivers, and friends for my little one. I created a private Facebook group in which I could share details of the simultaneously bureaucratic and emotional adoption process, as well as the complex and beautiful bond I was forming with Joy’s Inuit birth family. Knowing that my loved ones were supporting me on this journey, I felt brave enough to handle any obstacles that came my way. 

In the first two months of her life, Joy would go everywhere with me: to theatre performances at GCTC, concerts at the NAC, board meetings with MASC, a fundraiser for the Sexual Assault Support Centre, a demonstration in support of Wet’suwet’en, as well as playdates with friends and family. We would also attend weekly mom and baby classes at Pranashanti Yoga Centre and a playgroup at Tungasuvvingat Inuit

Photo by David Kawai

With COVID-19 now dominating our existence, these past few weeks have been very different. All our events and regular meetups have been cancelled, and the community of support I fostered for Joy is now limited to online interactions. The only person who comes by these days is my mother, who brings us groceries and baby formula to save us from going into shops. She also knits beautiful cardigans and hats for Joy. As a new solo parent, I find it so wonderful to have her consistent care and assistance during this difficult time.

Still, part of my ethos behind solo parenting was exposing Joy to a diversity of people. We used to visit with different people almost every day. I have dozens of photos of people holding Joy, and printed copies hang above her change table. She has developed this enchanting practice of gazing up at the faces in these photos and gurgling away at them. “Are you chatting with your friends?” I ask her delightedly. Then I lean in close, kiss her forehead and remind her, “These are all the people who love you.”

 

We have new routines now. We participate almost daily in my friend Bronwyn’s virtual yoga practice through the Rideau Sports Centre. We go for long walks in our Hintonburg neighbourhood and along the Ottawa River and Dow’s Lake, waving hello to friends and neighbours from a distance. We read stories together and listen to music by Twin Flames and Kelly Fraser. And when Joy is napping, I spend time reading and writing and working to get my first book published. 

I’m grateful for my child: she motivates me to get up in the morning and makes me laugh with her antics. I’m lucky that I’m on parental leave at this time and don’t have to juggle full-time work and parenting. I’m glad that Joy isn’t old enough to be fearful of this pandemic, and that the worst should (hopefully) be over when she eventually develops that awareness. 

One thing that both the adoption process and parenting in general have taught me is how to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Things rarely work out the way you expect, and it’s important to practice patience and be open to new ways of thinking and being. As much as I miss our wonderful community, I have to trust that this situation is temporary, and that while our world will probably look very different in the coming years, my child will one day have the opportunity to experience everything it has to offer.

Photo by David Kawai