How I Parent: A Canadian Single Mom Who Adopted an Inuit Child
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Name: Yvette Goodland
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Occupation: Social Worker
Family Situation: It’s been me, my adopted daughter and a village of people who have helped along the way.
Parenting “philosophy” in a sentence: When I make parenting decisions, I always think about how this decision will impact my kid as an adult.
What was your journey to having the family life you have today?
I’m a social worker in Ottawa, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the indigenous population here. My job had me thinking about adopting from the North. I’ve been single most of my life and knew that one day, I wanted to adopt.
I put the idea out there with some of my friends and one of them told me that she knew of a young mom who was pregnant but was considering adopting out the baby. She asked me if I was interested and I said, “Yes.” Soon after, I started the process. I only had six months to get everything ready, which is unusual because most people go years before getting started.
My daughter’s biological mom was living in Clyde River at the time, which is a teeny-tiny community. It’s just a couple hundred people. In the North when a woman is pregnant, she has the option of being flown to the city of Iqaluit for the last month of her pregnancy to be close to a hospital. My daughter’s biological mom was scheduled for a flight on June 2, 2011 and just before the flight, she went into labor. She ended up delivering in Clyde River.
The same day that my daughter Meeki was born, I had found out the ministry standard for adoption in the North requires that the baby has to stay in that province for 21 days before she can leave for adoption. It’s very expensive up there, so I [asked around] if anybody knew of anyone who I could stay with or rent a room from in Iqaluit around the due date, four weeks away. I got a contact within 45 minutes. This woman, who I had never met before, was like, “Yep, no problem!” Shortly after that call, I got another call letting me know that the baby was born much earlier than expected. I had to call the woman back to ask if I could come to her place the next day instead.
She was amazing. She picked me up at the airport and took my bags and said, “I’ll drive you straight to the hospital and then I’ll bring your bags back to my house.” She refused any payment from me. She said that she really liked what I was doing and wanted to help out any way she could. I went straight to the hospital after I got off the plane and I was there for ten days straight with my daughter.
Meeki was born at 4.5 lbs. The doctor was able to get her on a plane and bring her to the hospital in Iqaluit. She was perfectly healthy but she was just so tiny that they wanted to keep her to watch her gain weight. She had to feed every 45 minutes and we had to monitor all of that. Eventually we were discharged and since I had to stay in Iqaluit, I stayed at that woman’s house with the baby for another week or so before we could leave. The whole experience was intense. Being on my own and doing all the primary care for a preemie was a lot, but we got through it.
My daughter Meeki is pure life and joy. She’s perfectly healthy and she’ll be eight in June. She is named after her biological mother’s adoptive mother and we stay in contact with her biological family. Meeki is very aware of her connection to the North and is proud of her roots. I do my best to keep us both connected to the Inuit community in Ottawa. We have developed strong friendships along the way and have learned so much about the Inuit way of life — the language, sewing, beading, hunting, art, country food, celebrations. This is important to us. We make it a priority.
How did your upbringing influence your parenting style?
I’m originally from Newfoundland. It’s a small island located at the easternmost point of Canada. The culture there is very easy-going and helpful. It’s a big city but with a small-town feel to it. I have two sisters, one older and one younger. I’m probably the biggest risk taker in the family. I never took the straight and narrow path to anything. I think I stressed my parents out a little bit that way.
My parents never imposed the “traditional” plan of having a family on me so I got to create my own path; I remember talking about the idea of adoption when I was super young. When I told them about my plan, they were concerned about me adopting as a single parent for many reasons – but they eventually managed to wrap their heads around it.
I wanted to be open to anything and everything that I thought would make me a good parent. If I was really stuck in a box, I would have believed that my daughter needed a father [and] I probably wouldn’t have gone through with adoption because financially, it takes a lot out of you. But that’s what really separates me from my family. I think being different is, for the most part, a great thing – but I’ve learned that there are pros and cons to that.
What’s your favorite thing about parenting?
I love noticing something different about her every single day, whether it’s a new word, a different posture, or a new perspective on something. She’ll have opinions about things that I didn’t even know she knew about. I just love, love, love that part of parenting. I also really enjoy spending time with her. We do a lot of things together.
She’s also funny. Oh my God, her sense of humor is definitely there. Even though she’s not my biological child, she’s picking up parts of my personality, which I’m happy about. I didn’t know if I would see that. I can certainly see a lot of her biological mother in her, but I think she mimics my sense of humor, which is really fun.
What’s the hardest part?
My parenting experience has kind of pushed me to look at what single parenting really means. I’ve always been an independent woman. I paved my own way through life and I am proud of that, but I definitely see why parenting [is traditionally] two people. Most of the time, I do well as a single parent. One great benefit is that I don’t have to negotiate my parenting with anybody else; [on the other hand], I find that the hardest part is being the ultimate decision maker for every single thing that happens in my family.
There are times I reflect on the past when things get tough, and in private, I have had thoughts like, “I just wish I had somebody that I could tag team with.” Where I fail, a partner should be able to pick up that slack. The toughest times are when she gets sick and it’s three in the morning and I have to bring her to the Children’s Hospital because I think she has strep throat or something. There’s nothing more lonely than that when you’re the primary breadwinner.
I don’t have my immediate family around anymore so it’s not like I can pick up the phone and get help right away. It’s forced me to find some amazing moms out there in the community who have changed my life. We call ourselves “The Village.” One of the moms has three kids and the other has two. They’re both married but the three of us moms, we basically parent all six children at once. It’s become a group thing. I truly can’t emphasize how much they have meant to me in terms of support because they’ve gone above and beyond for us. They’re the people who are on my daughter’s emergency contact list at school and that alone speaks volumes.
How do you find time for yourself?
For the first five years, it was just virtually impossible. The threes were so hard! As she becomes more independent, it gets a bit easier. Even so, if I was to reach out to those other moms and tell them that I’m crashing and burning and crying and all that good stuff, they’re on it right away. Considering that they’re busy with their own families, the moms have been quite amazing in how they’ve been able to keep me going.
Meeki also goes to an Inuit program two evenings a week. It’s great because they teach the kids about Inuit customs and traditions. Elders come in and tell stories and the kids learn how to sew seal skin and they’ll learn how to bead. They’re exposed to so much. There’s also this cool educational component to it. For example, last night, she was at the program and they had a “Let’s Talk Science” educational program going on. There was a special guest there to teach them about STEM and similar subjects.
What’s the best advice you can share with new parents?
Completely lower your expectations of everything, especially keeping a clean house. Just forget about it. Don’t stress yourself out because I’m telling you, it can eat you up inside. Meals? Just stop. Stop stressing about the well-balanced meals. My daughter doesn’t eat anything. She’s a very picky eater. This has been a struggle for me but my friends keep reminding me, “Yvette, let it go. You’re doing the best you can.”
What my friends say is true because I could knock myself out over that. It’s something that I take on personally, but I’m learning to let go a little bit more. I would also say that if you have a really high work ethic at your job, that’s great – but instead of giving 100 percent commitment, try giving 75 percent and learn to feel okay about it. Give yourself permission to do that because no job is worth eating up the finite amount of energy that you have in a day and taking it away from your child. It’s just not worth it.
For parents who are looking to adopt, I would highly recommend adopting from the North as well. People come to me for advice, mainly because I know a lot about the Inuit culture and I’m a social worker so it’s kind of what I do. The advice I like to give is: Don’t let your child remember the first day that you told them about their biological family. Just have it naturally weave into your every day life. Honor where they’re from, regardless if they come from an unhealthy past or their biological family is struggling. Always honor their family. They deserve your respect.
How do you embrace the most unpredictable moments of parenthood?
I embrace the hard parts with tears. I’ve done a lot of crying over the years. Even though Meeki has been in my life for almost eight years, I still feel like it’s still really new. Of course I’m still the parent and I discipline and all that stuff, but we actually really enjoy each other’s company and tell each other stories. I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to that. The first five or six years, you’re literally in survival mode. That’s all you do. Your priority is to keep them alive. It’s getting through a never-ending list of things that they absolutely need. But once you get through that, you start to enjoy the process.
What would you want your kid to say about you as a parent?
I hope my daughter will say that I did my best providing her as many opportunities as I could. I hope she feels that I spent quality time with her and was emotionally there for her.
I feel like we’re going to have a pretty good relationship, even when she becomes a teen. I could be totally wrong. I could be totally out to lunch, and maybe that’s every mother’s feeling, I don’t know. But I know the connection that we have is really strong and I’m loving being Meeki’s mom.