A year ago, my partner and I applied to become adoptive parents. We all but completed the assessment and preparation process, our assessment was done, and we were a matter of weeks from sitting in front of the approval panel when we had a bereavement and had to postpone these plans. It was a dreadful time and a hard decision. We had started to see our identity as ‘Adopters’, we had been very excited about our less common path towards parenthood, and we had made some solid bonds with others who were on a similar journey.
One of the key parts of the assessment process that we went through was attending a three-day preparation course with others who were waiting to be approved. Talk about building a sense of community in a short space of time! We shared a huge amount, including our anxieties about adopting and the experiences that had led us there. We agreed to stay in touch, and have done ever since.
I remember reflecting at that time on something that John McKnight had talked about at a conference on inclusion*. He said that communities exist by creating outsiders. He talked about his own community, how a group of dog-walkers became connected because they all have dogs (even a particular breed of dog); people who don’t have a dog are not really welcome to join this group. Geographical communities feel stronger when they are certain of their boundaries, and where ‘outside’ begins. I could identify with this. People who had their children by birth surely wouldn’t be welcome in our group, and I was – to be honest – comforted by that.
And then, six months after we ‘paused’ our adoption process, we found out I was pregnant. We are over the moon about this, just as you would imagine! It was a strange process though, to let go of the identity of adopters. In fact, I still haven’t. I am holding on to the idea that adoption may be a part of our future, even though I know we can’t predict what will happen.
Throughout all of this, I have remained close with two of the women from our adoption preparation course. They and their partners have been matched with their children and will become parents within the next few weeks. They will all be wonderful parents, I am certain of that, and I am hugely excited about their fast progress. When I shared the news with them, I didn’t doubt they would celebrate our good news and that we would continue our friendships. They are both warm and generous women, after all. But I did doubt that we would be invited to join in with the get-togethers we had all imagined having when our children came along.
I was wrong. Both these wonderful women revelled in our news, were excited that we would all be parents within a matter of months, and suggested we meet up next year with the children and babies. I rarely doubt John McKnight’s wisdom, but I do think I may have found the exception to his rule. We are welcomed outsiders, and are included in a community we thought we had no choice but to leave.
* For the inclusion conference, see www.inclusion.com and look for the Toronto Summer
Institute. For more about John McKnight, go to www.abcdinstitute.org
22 responses to “Still Welcome”
Linda, I can’t get your complete post to show. Is it just me? I tried entering the URL into my browser and it still didn’t work.
Sent from my IPad
hey linda & kirk, there seems to be a broken link here page keeps saying “file not found”…
Should be sorted now, Eileen… There was a wee technical hitch when I was scheduling it to post and it sent half a post out straight away… Sorry folks!
so happy to hear this news!! i recall our conversation over Sushi about motherhood a few summers back in Toronto …. yeah!! so happy for you! – Becki
I knew you would have a cat, have bird wallpaper. I knew you would have wellies and wear stripy socks. I knew you’d make a wonderful mum too.
Congratulations to you both. Great piece. Big love.
You are all-knowing, so I will never question you, G. X
Linda, that was a really lovely read. I am so pleased for you both. I thought I spotted a wee bump at the Race Night but didn’t want to say anything. Congratulations. x
The early bump was a total giveaway I think, Leesa! But fewer folk than I thought seem to have spotted it. 🙂 Thanks for your message. X
It brought happy tears to my eyes seeing you in that picture, you look so beautiful and happy. So happy for you Linda and Alan, your amazing people ❤ And you'll be awesome parents!! xxx
Thank you Lucy!! X
That post would bring a tear to a glass eye…beautiful. Wishing you all the very best for the future xxx
congratulations, linda! what a beautiful post!
What a fab post, I am absolutely delighted for you and Alan!
I have a wee story about Linda and her community building gifts… Today at nursery my wee daughter, who is 4, drew a picture. In her picture are 3 places – the roundabout near our house, our house and the Community Circle! Kate has been a member of North Edinburgh Community Circle since she was 2 and has been made very welcome by everyone, especially Linda and she clearly sees it as a very important part of her community,
Thanks for the post and great to see you look so well. I woke up this morning thinking about your post and what it teaches us. Two thoughts were in my mind…
The first was hearing Marsha Forrest saying that ‘anyone can be included – if we want them’ and my second thought is that relationships are able to transcend very significant differences.
It seems to me that you didn’t try to enter this group in your current situation ‘cold’…the women knew you and in fact you had shared some very profound experiences and so you had connection and affection. They are not including some random person but rather the lovely Linda Keys for whom life has changed in a very beautiful way. They are welcoming you and so your ‘condition’ is less important than the relationship. If you are the friend of one of the dog walkers you’ll be welcomed into the group without a dog…relationships are the key that unlock those doors. The common situation…parenthood, dog walking…whatever it is…makes the relationship more likely…and then when there is relationship you are wanted…they want to have Linda Keys in their group…
I don’t think that you are an outsider to them…you are completely in with the bricks…Relationship is what allows the exception to the rule.
Aw Vicky! Really? That gave me goose bumps! Thank goodness for you and your wonderful family. X
Thank you Heather – I think that is a really useful point. Relationships can build community, as well as the other way around…
As an adoptive parent myself, I would say that you aren’t an outsider if you become a parent. The line that divides, in that particular situation, is those that are or are becoming parents, and those that still haven’t figured out how that will happen in their lives. Doesn’t matter so much if it is adoption or biological birth – just becoming a parent is what bonds.
That makes sense, Hope!
This is wonderful. I am elated for you both and my only sadness is that I don’t live closer to you to watch your belly grow and then release a beautiful baby child.
Interesting point by John McKnight… I suppose both a welcoming and a ‘defining ourselves’ culture can be both be part of creating strong community. I also think of the saying John shared once from a community he visited: “There are no strangers here–only friends we haven’t met yet.”
I also think of the beautiful belief to be found just south of my town, among a group of neighbors who created a real neighborhood of caring, connected people from what was once just a bunch of people living separate lives in houses… initiated by my friend Don and his amazing wife Terri, the group is called “Neighbors Gathering”–so is obviously neighborhood-centric. But, how do they define “a neighbor?”:
“Someone who we care about, and who cares about us.”
Hi again! I shared this post with John McKnight and he asked that I pass this along:
Just to clarify, I have often said that sociologists make the point that a community is a group of people with some affinity. As they form, they necessarily create outsiders for one of two reasons: they don’t really welcome people without the affinity or they create outsiders just because there are people not members. It’s a sociologists abstraction. I use it as a warning. By intention or no intention, every community risks excluding. And so I always conclude by saying that Judith Snow reminds us that we need to create a “welcome at the edge”.
Can you send this clarification on?