CTV anchor shares her difficult journey to motherhood
Tarah Schwartz is an award-winning journalist and has been the weekend news anchor at CTV Montreal for the past 12 years. She is also mom to Sam, a curious and loving 3-year-old who she and her husband, Enrico Caouette, adopted from South Korea in 2013.
Fertility issues led the couple to consider international adoption, a process that took more than four years from the time they first put their names on adoption agency waiting lists to the moment they took custody of their son.
“With adoption, there is no pregnancy to prepare you for parenthood,” she says. “No birth that gives way to the moment your child is first placed in your arms. For adoptive parents, it happens in one indescribable moment when a child’s hand is placed in yours, and just like that, you are a mother.”
Schwartz says the bonding process takes time and a great deal of love and compassion. She stayed in South Korea for a month after taking custody of Sam, who was 15 months old at the time, staying by her little boy’s side as he grappled with the loss of his foster family and the beginning of their own relationship.
Schwartz and her son arrived home in August 2013, her husband eagerly waiting at Trudeau airport.
Once you returned to Montreal with Sam, did you run into any unforeseen challenges? How did you cope?
Coming home was yet another huge transition for Sam, who had already lived through so much for someone so young. We kept him close to home, we cocooned, and worked on building the attachment that is so important for adopted children. It was an extraordinary time filled with lots of firsts. I slept by his side each night and promised him he would never be alone. It’s the period of time when we became a family and when I realized, deep in my soul, how much I could love another human being. I would do anything to keep him safe and happy.
What do you love the most about being a mom?
Honestly, I love everything about it. I waited for so long and worked so hard to get here, I treasure it all. What I love most? Probably the tender moments when he caresses my cheek, calls me mommy or pats my back when I hold him in my arms. Those moments when you feel like your heart might burst. Also, watching the wonder in his eyes as he explores the world is incredible.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a mom?
I guess accepting that you can’t be there for every extraordinary moment. It’s hard to be away from him, but we have lives to live that can’t always revolve around our children. I wish I had more time. Time is always the challenge. And sleep, it would be nice to have more of that. Adopted children tend to take longer to sleep through the night and Sam wakes up often needing to be reassured. But it will pass, so I try to enjoy the late night cuddle time.
You have spoken openly about your challenges with fertility. Why is that?
For years, I hid the fact that I was having trouble conceiving. I felt ashamed. And while I was going through fertility treatments, I saw that same look of shame on the faces of hundreds of other women. It’s so heartbreaking not being able to have a child or losing one that’s just started growing inside you – and we’re so hard on ourselves. I finally realized that speaking about it allowed me to stop blaming myself. My hope is that by talking openly about infertility, other women will know they are not alone, it is nothing to be ashamed of and it doesn’t have to mean they can never be a mother.
We hear a lot about work/life balance. Do you believe it exists when both parents work full time? If so, how do you manage to achieve it?
I have a great job and though it’s extremely fulfilling, it comes with some very difficult hours. I work every weekend until midnight and sometimes do late nights during the week. Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband who fully embraces and loves being a dad. Our family life wouldn’t be the same without him. I’m not sure a work/life balance is fully possible, but I know we do our best. Some days are easier than others. I think as long as a child knows he’s loved, the rest will fall into place.
What do you do for fun (Tarah time)?
I’ve been doing yoga for years; it’s a part of my life that helps me stay grounded so I take a class whenever I can or I practice at home. I’ve also recently started to run, which has been a tremendous addition to “me” time. It’s time I give to myself where I really feel energized and strong, which is great when you have a 3-year-old boy! I love running early in the morning when it seems the city is just waking up. At night, once Sam is asleep, I love to curl up with a good book or watch a movie or television series with my husband.
What are your favourite family activities?
Sam is only 3 and still naps (yeah!) – so our family time is pretty simple. This summer, we spent a lot of time at the park, swimming and cycling. Sam loves being around his extended family, so we spend a fair bit of time with my mom, my sister and her daughters. My sister loves to pamper and feed us, so it’s like being on vacation at her house.
Name three things about being a parent you wish you had known before Sam arrived.
- How much I would love it.
- How I didn’t need to fear giving up my personal time.
- How it can change your relationship with your husband. You really have to make sure that bond stays strong. Sometimes it can feel like you’re partners raising a child and the couple aspect of the relationship gets pushed to the side. Enrico and I decided we would get back to always kissing hello and goodbye, good morning and good night, no matter how rushed or tired we are. And we go on date nights once a month.
What are three values you want to instill in Sam?
- Kindness. Our actions and words create the world we live in. And I hope for a kinder world.
- Compassion. It helps us feel connected to others.
- Courage. I don’t want him to be afraid of doing anything, becoming anyone, or going anywhere he wants. I want him to live his dreams.
What has Sam taught you about life?
That raising a child will be the best thing that I have ever done. He is my life’s greatest gift. Sam makes me want to be a better person. He’s taught me that even the youngest of people can be brave and make you want to change the world. He’s taught me to be grateful, all the time.
Do you have any advice for those considering adoption?
Don’t wait. If you’re thinking about it, get your name on a waiting list. It costs nothing and requires no commitment. Don’t wait until everything else has failed before opening that door. The adoption process can feel like an eternity but find the strength to be patient and don’t give up. When you finally get your baby, you’ll know it was him or her you were waiting for, and somehow it makes all those difficult years bearable. I promise.