We used to be normal.
Well, relatively normal, anyway. Two kids, a house in the suburbs. I was a sportswriter, a career that provoked the envy of most of my male friends. For a while it was pretty close to my dream job. That was us: an average middle-class young family.
Then 2009 happened.
Actually, our journey to becoming the kind of family we are now—the kind people stare at in shock and awe when they pass us in the grocery store—began about 18 months earlier, when we decided to adopt a little girl from Rwanda. We’d talked vaguely and hypothetically about adoption in the past; my wife’s youngest brother is adopted, and we were both open to the idea someday. But one Sunday we were sitting in church listening to friends of ours who’d just returned from Rwanda. They described their visit to an orphanage in Kigali, where thirty babies slept in a room and no one picked them up except to feed them or change them. Where few of them bothered to cry because they learned early in life that there was no point.
Neither of us could stop thinking about that orphanage. When Shawna turned to me that night and said, “So…” I knew exactly where she was going. Our hypothetical “someday” was upon us.
By early last year we’d received our approval to adopt from both the Canadian and Rwandese governments, and we were well on our way to adding a daughter to our family. Our boys, Xander and Oscar, were about four and two, and we were adopting a girl under 12 months. It would be challenging, we knew, but we felt we could handle it.
Then one morning in February, Shawna said: “I think I’m pregnant.”
Suddenly we weren’t just a growing family: we were doubling our kids in a matter of months. Several panic attacks later, I brought Maliah home from Rwanda in July—which is a heck of a story on its own, one I’ll tell another time—and Gideon was born in October. Then there were six of us.
And in the middle of all this, I lost my job.
Technically I took a buyout, but it was a case of jumping before I was pushed. The newspaper where I worked decided to lay off a quarter of its newsroom, and while I wasn’t one of the original casualties, I knew I was low enough on the seniority list that when the whole messy process was over, I’d be out. So I jumped first. And it turned out to be the best thing I could have done.
Somehow, it worked. In a perfect storm of good timing, luck, and divine intervention, everything fell into place. We never could have navigated the chaos of such drastic family changes without losing our sanity if I was working full-time, but I never could have afforded to leave my job if it weren’t for the (modest) buyout offer that came along at just the right moment. In the ensuing months I’ve been able to spend plenty of time with my family while picking up enough freelance writing jobs to make ends meet. It’s been challenging and difficult and downright scary at times, but it’s also been the most incredible season of our lives.
So this is us: a band of adventurers, living on the edge. This blog is about our journey, places we’ve been and places we’ve yet to go. We’re on the cusp of a brand new season that promises to bring a brand new kind of crazy to our lives. I start a new term position in a couple of weeks, the first 9-to-5 job I’ll have held since before we were married. And our daughter’s life is about to change drastically too: we found out shortly after we brought her home that she’s completely deaf. She had bilateral cochlear implant surgery two weeks ago, and in another two weeks, she’ll be “activated.” She’s about to hear for the first time.
Around here, the fun never stops. Stay tuned.