1000 families prject harrison-cragg family

1,000 Families Project: The Harrison-Cragg Family

One family’s remarkable journey from despair to open First Nations adoption

We are four. Sometimes less and sometimes more. We came to parenting through hope and despair. We tried to become a family for seven years before we chose adoption. In the beginning, we were hopeful that we would conceive when it was right. As time wore on, we ebbed and flowed through the grief and loss inherent in infertility—hopeful, followed by broken, month by month. After six years we decided to try fertility treatments. Again, we rallied from hopeful to grief and loss. We’d arrive at the clinic anxious, leave hopeful, and two weeks later be back to despair. Feeling defeated we decided to take a different direction that we prayed would offer a different kind of hope.

In 2004, year seven on our path to parenthood, we put our energy into learning about adoption and beginning to take the steps required in this process. At last we were the “lucky ones,” as we were quickly selected by a birth mom seeking an open adoption for her soon-to-be-born child. Just as quickly, baby was born and we were three. Joy struck, and just as quickly, was gone. In her own despair and grief, birth mom had a change of heart and requested her baby back. A social worker called and advised she was on her way to pick up the baby. Within hours we were two.

Months passed. As two, we did home repairs, yard work and accumulated pets to love. At last we received a positive phone call. We had been chosen. A birth mom picked us to adopt her unborn child. With trepidation, we met with social workers and the birth mom. She proved confident and spoke beautifully about her wishes and dreams for her child. A connection was made and baby was born a week later. And we were three. Our son is Ojibway and looks like his mom. And at the same time he looks just like us.

The despair of eight years dissolved and was replaced by unrepentant joy. My husband stayed home on parental leave while I worked two jobs. When he went back to work each of our parents took a day of the week to provide care. We knew we were fortunate to have them.

We weren’t done. We found out that our son had a sister who was in foster care. It took a year to bring her into our care. We learned that she had many special needs, health and otherwise. My husband took a parenting leave, and again was the primary parent. Over the next few years, we parented together with many supports. We included our daughter’s foster family as extended family in a caregiving role. Most importantly, we continued an open adoption, including visits with Birth Mom, being sure to nurture her role in our lives.

Currently we are three at home again. Our daughter’s special needs and health concerns have meant that she needs to live in a treatment setting. We share her parenting with two additional caregivers and various supports. She comes home on weekends and holidays. Although our family experience hasn’t been typical, we feel blessed and grateful.

Now, we are two adoptive parents, one birth mom, two treatment caregivers, a foster mom and adoptive grandparents providing care and love to our children. We are a culturally diverse extended family working together to provide care for our kids.

We owe Birth Mom for our family. We are indebted to her in ways that go beyond the obvious and are nearly impossible to explain. Every day I am thankful for my family. Every day I am in awe of Birth Mom’s courage to trust in us. Every day I feel blessed to be a parent and to have a role in my children’s lives. I do not take this lightly. We are never just three or four. We are always more.

(Pictured above: Sarah Harrison and family with her children’s birth mother in the centre.)
This is #1000families post number 33. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.

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Sarah Harrison

About Sarah Harrison

Collingwood, Ontario family therapist/counselor Sarah Harrison-Cragg, MSW, has been working in the mental-health field for more than 10 years. Social work is among her passions and her insights are shared on her blog, Sarah’s Professional Place. She is most at peace in nature, especially while camping in the heart of her beloved, beautiful Algonquin Park. View all posts by

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