Strychnine in the Well

I don’t know how many of you grew up reading Anne of Green Gables, but I did.  I loved those books and movies when I was a kid – ok, actually, I still do!  I am reading “Rilla of Ingleside” right now in fact!  But I digress… In “Anne of Green Gables,” in the very first chapter, we find this conversation between Mrs. Rachel Lynde and Marilla Cuthbert. Keep in mind as you read that this was written in 1908, more than 100 years ago (and I am sharing this for information purposes only)!


She (Marilla) had expected Mrs. Rachel up; she had known that the sight of Matthew jaunting off so unaccountably would be too much for her neighbor’s curiosity.

“Oh, no, I’m quite well although I had a bad headache yesterday,” she said. “Matthew went to Bright River. We’re getting a little boy from an orphan asylum in Nova Scotia and he’s coming on the train tonight.”

If Marilla had said that Matthew had gone to Bright River to meet a kangaroo from Australia Mrs. Rachel could not have been more astonished. She was actually stricken dumb for five seconds. It was unsupposable that Marilla was making fun of her, but Mrs. Rachel was almost forced to suppose it.

“Are you in earnest, Marilla?” she demanded when voice returned to her.

“Yes, of course,” said Marilla, as if getting boys from orphan asylums in Nova Scotia were part of the usual spring work on any well-regulated Avonlea farm instead of being an unheard of innovation.

Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points. A boy! Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert of all people adopting a boy! From an orphan asylum! Well, the world was certainly turning upside down! She would be surprised at nothing after this! Nothing!

“What on earth put such a notion into your head?” she demanded disapprovingly.


Now, it’s 2015, and we are blessed to live in a society where education is valued and being “different” is not as different as it used to be.  And yet it has been our experience that people sometimes react to our adoption news exactly as Mrs. Rachel Lynde did over 100 years ago – with shock and/or disapproval.  It strikes me as very odd!  When a recent friend of mine announced that she was expecting, I gave her a hug and wished her all the happiness in the world – I didn’t question why she decided to become pregnant.  Furthermore, I did not start telling her scary stories about pregnancies and child-raising gone wrong, or caution her to plan for the worst.  I continue with Mrs. Rachel Lynde…


Mrs. Rachel prided herself on always speaking her mind; she proceeded to speak it now, having adjusted her mental attitude to this amazing piece of news.

“Well, Marilla, I’ll just tell you plain that I think you’re doing a mighty foolish thing—a risky thing, that’s what. You don’t know what you’re getting. You’re bringing a strange child into your house and home and you don’t know a single thing about him nor what his disposition is like nor what sort of parents he had nor how he’s likely to turn out. Why, it was only last week I read in the paper how a man and his wife up west of the Island took a boy out of an orphan asylum and he set fire to the house at night—set it ON PURPOSE, Marilla—and nearly burnt them to a crisp in their beds. And I know another case where an adopted boy used to suck the eggs—they couldn’t break him of it. If you had asked my advice in the matter—which you didn’t do, Marilla—I’d have said for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”

(She continues…)

“Well, I hope it will turn out all right,” said Mrs. Rachel in a tone that plainly indicated her painful doubts. “Only don’t say I didn’t warn you if he burns Green Gables down or puts strychnine in the well—I heard of a case over in New Brunswick where an orphan asylum child did that and the whole family died in fearful agonies. Only, it was a girl in that instance.”


Ha!  I always laughed at these cautions of Mrs. Lynde’s – she was such a cranky lady!  But really, they aren’t much different than the stories we keep getting told, and the warnings we keep on receiving.

Am I naive enough to think that the parenting journey that we’ve chosen is going to be perfect and without challenges?  Ha!  Goodness no!  We have gone through the required educational classes in substance use and abuse, trauma, mental health issues, attachment disorders, and health issues.  We have read every story and watched every movie we can get our hands on.  We have traded stories with many parents of adopted children.  We have spent time in discussion with a counselor trained in adoption issues. We have prepared ourselves in every way imaginable, and we know that there is much that we will just have to learn as we move forward.  Believe me when I say that I know the horrors out there that these kids have experienced, and I am still 100% sure that I want to adopt!!!

I am so excited to share our news with others, and so tired of defending our decision.  I am tired of pointing out that planning a biological child, or adopting an infant, is no guarantee that that child will not struggle in life.  And I’m tired of pointing out that, like with Anne of Green Gables, the fact that adoption occurred later in life does not mean that disaster will follow.

When we share our news, what I would love is a hug and some excitement!  Some encouragement!  A prayer!  A squeal!  A dance!  Get the idea?  Every time I get an email or message of support, I feel so blessed and encouraged!  And we need more of that, just like any parent out there:)  So bring it on!!!


You’ve got questions… We’ve got answers (maybe)

We recently “went public” with our adoption journey – and by that, I mean we started telling everyone we know.  At church, at work, friends… and of course on Facebook.  We are thrilled to be building a family through adoption, and although we recognize the many challenges involved, we want to share our excitement!

The support we have received has been mostly phenomenal!  We are blessed to be a part of a community where many are almost as excited about our adoption as we are!  But along with that support comes many questions – and anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE questions!  To me, if you take the time to ask a question (or two, or three!), it means that you are interested in us and learning about how to best support us.  Thank you for that!

So… I thought I would write a casual post, and try to address many of these questions here to save a little time.  Keep in mind that we’re going off of what we’ve been told in many cases… and there always the “who knows” kind of situations where we’ll just be rolling with life as it comes.  Anyways, here we go!

  1. Where are you in the process?  We had some hold ups with our paperwork (see my previous post “Our First Challenge”), but once our social worker returns from a much-needed summer vacation, we’ll be finalizing the paperwork and scheduling our Home Study.
  2. What is a Home Study? Here is where we repeat what we’ve been told (as we haven’t experienced it yet – for our friends who have adopted, maybe you want to share your experience in the comments?).  The Home Study is scheduled by our social worker, through a local agency (which means that it will get done much sooner).  Because we are interested in adopting a teenager, my understanding is that the Ministry does their best to speed up the process as much as possible, while still doing their due diligence.  The purpose of the Home Study is to find out as much about us as possible!  Our backgrounds, our struggles, our successes, who we are as a couple and a family, what our likes and dislikes are, how we live… and how we can improve our living situation to ensure that our child is safe.  Honestly, I’m a bit nervous about it – but we have no secrets, and are open with our social worker about our lives.  I’m sure it will be a learning experience, and I welcome that!
  3. How long will it take before you bring a child home? The quick answer?  We have no idea.  The timeline looks something like this: complete the Home Study, look for a match, get to know the child, mutually agree that this placement will be positive for both sides, move in happens.  But there are a lot of variables outside of our control.  So who knows?!  And I’m ok with that.  It will happen exactly when it needs to happen for everyone involved.
  4. How does the matching process happen? Again I’m not exactly sure, but after talking to our social worker and reading everything I can get my hands on, I think it’s a mutual thing.  Every child has a social worker, and every potential family has a social worker.  There is also a database that is used by social workers (I have no idea as to how extensively it is used).  Sometimes there are even fairs that social workers and potential families can attend to learn more about BC’s waiting children.  But basically… when we began this process, we had to fill out a 3-page form indicating what we were looking for.  It was a tough form to fill out!  All sorts of questions were asked, not just gender and age and ethnicity, but what kind of special needs we would consider, or trauma, or openness with birth family.  A lot of thought and prayer went into that form!  That information then gets matched through social workers and data bases, identifying potential matches.  We are then contacted by our social worker when a match is identified, and we get to learn a little more about that child.  If we decide it could work, then a meeting is arranged.  Ideally, after that, it’s a little like dating: because we are looking for a teenager, they also have a say in their adoption, whether they like us or not.  If meetings and phone conversations and weekends go well, then all parties can agree, and move in is scheduled.
  5. What kind of child are you and Jean looking for?  Well, we know we want a teenager, and we know that we’re not equipped for serious special needs, but other than that we’re open.  We feel that it is more important to find the perfect fit.  We do know that we love to be outside, we love dogs, we love the country lifestyle… our child will have to be open to those things too 🙂 But more importantly, it is important that everyone (us, the child, social workers) feel that the placement will work.
  6. Do you know what you’re getting into? Ha!  This question makes me grin every time.  Does any first-time parent know what they’re getting into?  I feel that we bring a unique set of experiences and skills to the table.  We are definitely not naive, we don’t think that this will be easy.  But I don’t think being a parent in 2015 is easy, not matter how you choose to start your family.  But are we prepared?  We are doing our best to be.  We read/watch/listen to everything we can get our hands on, and talk to families who have learned from their experiences.  I’m excited to take part in a seminar in November regarding teen adoption in BC.  We have both had experiences in life that we hope will help us identify with some of the struggles these teens have faced.  So, in answer to the question, I think that we will be as prepared as any parent, and know that we have the resources and support for the unexpected challenges that will inevitably come our way.
  7. Can you have “your own/real” children? There’s that term again (refer to my previous post in regards to a “real family”).  Believe me, these will be our own/real children in every way but biology.  But hey, we get the meaning behind the question – can we have biological children.  The answer is probably, but it doesn’t really matter.  Jean and I had a miscarriage in 2010 – it happens to a large percentage of women/couples.  But that’s not the reason we’re adopting.  Adoption has been such a blessing in our family.  As I have shared, I am adopted, and I thank God every day for my parents and my family.  I am so incredibly blessed.  And Jean has experienced what it is like to face adult-hood without the guidance and support of parents (although he is blessed to have fantastic siblings and extended family).  We just feel so strongly that this is right for us!
  8. How can we best support you? Ok, no one has actually asked us this… ha!  But we’d like to answer it regardless.  Ask questions. Educate yourself and your family about what adoption is all about.  Love us.  Treat our family exactly like any family that is growing, biologically or not.  I spoke to a family who had a shower thrown for them when they adopted – love it!  There are definitely things we will need, just like a growing family:)  But above all, ask.  We’re an open book, and love to talk about adoption and our journey!!!
  9. THANK YOU!!!  I know I said this already, but thank you.  Thank you for supporting us and loving us and questioning us and praying with/for us and laughing with us and crying with us.  We feel so blessed to have a support system like you!!!