I’ll See You Later documents families’ stories

Written by Preston Pouteaux

When I was handed my daughter, Scotia, for the first time, I froze. Like a gift wrapped up in a bundle with some kind of sterile hospital towel, I held my pink and fresh-to-the-world daughter. I’d spent months, days, and hours waiting for this moment and now I just stood there in the middle of a hot hospital room.

I looked down, then back up at the nurse. I said the one thing that could bubble up through my feelings, “What do I do with her?” Ah, the first words of a new dad. The nurse met my eyes, knowingly amused, and nodded at a chair in the corner. “Maybe you should sit down with her, she’s yours now, you know.” Before the car seats, diapers, and family photos, I was simply a dazed new dad looking at my favourite new little human.

No two stories are alike, but all families begin with a kind of unpredictable suddenness. In spite of plans and dreams, families come together unexpectedly, wrapped as a surprise. This is part of the wonder of it all. Human life, even and perhaps especially at the start, bursts forth with a proclamation: people are not a commodity but a gift.

Each of us from the beginning are fully given, and glow with wonder—even if we also freeze at first sight of it all unfolding. Often we don’t know what we’re really beholding when we first encounter a new parent and their child. But if we look closely, we’ll find ourselves staring right into a story of God’s providence. Each family is a miracle tended and embraced with joy by their Creator.

A few years ago, I found myself participating in an unlikely project that put me face-to-face with these sacred and surprising stories. My neighbours, who had adopted a child, asked my friend and fellow film producer Bruce McAllister if we could help tell the untold stories of adoption in Alberta.

We learned that adoption stories are complex. In some places adoptive parents wait years to be considered for placement, while some infants will live out their childhood in the foster system. Meanwhile some birth mothers who face big decisions about their child’s future receive misinformation about what adoption could mean for them.

We decided we had to tell these stories, and so we enlisted our filmmaking friend Jesse Nakano to help us. Together we started out, and we were astonished by what we filmed. We heard from mothers who wrestled with the surprising news of their pregnancy, from not-yet-parents who wondered if they could be, and from the children who are loved by all of them.

Emerging from these three groups—birth-parents, adoptive parents, and children—were stories that echoed with expectancy, surprise, hope, heartache, and redemption.

Adoption stories were not a transaction of a child moving between one parent and another, but a kind of openhanded love.

Storytelling is a strange and wonderful thing because our stories do not come to us neatly packaged. They don’t begin with a convenient cue that the movie is about to begin. No opening sequence, just a realization somewhere along the way that life is rolling along. We are often well into it before we know what it’s all about. Love emerges in the swirling conditions of our one surprising and beautiful life. Love brings us together, and before we know it we may be holding a baby, shocked and in awe, at newfound life wrapped in a bundle.

This was the heart for the film we created, to tell the stories of open adoption in a way that captured the beauty of shared love that emerges in unexpected ways. Open adoption is a way to create a family that involves a number of deeply loving people. In simplest terms, the birth mother stays in the life of, and is known by, her baby and her child’s adoptive family. The mother is not secret, mysterious, or left behind but rather loved, embraced, and included in a number of ways.

Every story is different, as every family is unique, but open adoption is a way to see everyone in an adoption story as vital, valued, and beloved.

One mother, as she passed her baby to her new adoptive family, whispered into her baby’s little ears, “I’ll see you later.” That redemptive phrase, spoken during filming, became the name of the documentary. These surprising and expectant words of love spoke volumes because love shared is what makes a family, no matter how the story began or how it unfolds.

One night, after we screened the film at a movie theatre in downtown Calgary, a man walked up to me and shook my hand. “I came here tonight wondering if I could ever be a good enough dad to adopt,” he said. “We have our name on a list, but I’ve been so uncertain, so I came here tonight and sat in the back. I want to tell you that I’ve made up my mind, I’m going to adopt. Thank you.”

These stories have had a growing impact. I’ll See You Later has been shown at more than a dozen international film festivals, winning several awards. It has been screened in living rooms, adoption agencies, and among those who believe in the beauty of adoption. I recently heard of a soon-to-be mom who decided to give birth and then find a home for her child because of the film.

The film continues to be passed along, and we hope it will continue to find a home in the imaginations of many more people in the coming months.

Our unexpected moments may be the very story of love unfolding in our lives. Jesus calls God His father, referring to a personal and interconnected relationship of love. It was perhaps the best language He could use to help us know just how profound the Father’s love would be for us, too. We are—perhaps unexpectedly and even before we know it—found, embraced, and adopted as God’s own.

I’ll See You Later is an internationally awarded Canadian film that explores the beautiful stories of open adoption. Preston Pouteaux is a film producer, author, and pastor in Chestermere, Alta.