Saturday, October 3, 2009

Once Upon a Time (not so long ago)

Before I delve into past and present transracial family adventures, I want to share with you our story---the story of how we went from a white couple to parents of an African American baby girl.

So, here goes.

Once upon a time, we were newlyweds. We lived in a townhouse---the beginners love shack. I was in grad school and teaching freshman English courses as a TA. My husband was working for one of the big four accounting firms---climbing up the corporate ladder. We had closets and cupboards full of wedding gifts----fluffy towels, rimmed china, and several of homemade blankets. We were on our way.

During Thanksgiving break of my first grad school and teaching semester, I got a stomach virus and was violently ill. I felt the pain not only physically, but somewhere else, somewhere deeper. I knew something had changed but I couldn't figure out what.

Over the next year and half, I continued to plow through graduate school, pressing toward my goal of graduating a semester early. I was ready to be finished with school and begin my career as an English teacher and soon, a freelance writer. Nothing could slow me down. Or so I thought.

As graduation approached, my health began to rapidly decline. I was never without my water bottle---drinking gallons of water, juice, milk, and tea every day. My weight dropped from 125 to 97 lbs. I was exhausted, depressed, and though I was so light in weight, I constantly felt weighted down. My vision was blurred. My bones were protruding out my skin. My size zero jeans were too small. I had chronic sinus infections and a leg injury that wouldn't heal.

I wasn't irresponsible. I desperately sought help from medical professionals---five in total---a dietitian, a general practitioner, my gynecologist, my optometrist, and a sinus specialist. I scoured the internet for answers. A few weeks before the day that would change my life forever, my gp implied that I had anorexia. No one believed that I was eating 3000, 4000, even 5000 calories a day. Nothing would quench my thirst, my hunger, or my desperation.

In March of 2006 I was diagnosed with type I diabetes while lying in a bed in our local emergency room. I was later told it was a miracle that I lived as long as I did----one and half years without a diagnosis. None of the staff could believe I wasn't in a coma or dead. But there I was.

The next year consisted of many ups and downs, but mostly ups. After all, the burden I had been carrying for a year and a half, the burden of unexplainable dread and fear, had been lifted. I had an answer! Granted, I didn't want a forever-disease; however, I was finally diagnosed with something that I could manage and begin to understand. I went from insulin injections to an insulin pump, learned how to count the carbohydrates in my food, and much, much more.

After a year with my disease, my husband and I started talking about how and when to start a family. We always knew we wanted to be parents. But diabetes complicated those plans. The list of possible pregnancy complications was frightening and numerous. And not only was I putting my own life in danger by carrying a child but I was also putting that child's life at risk.

I began to investigate adoption. My husband agreed to attend an adoption informational meeting hosted by a local Christian agency. We were both nervous as we walked into the meeting. The minute the presentation was over, I was ready to start the adoption process. My husband, as always, needed more time.

We joined the agency in April of 2006. In August, after paperwork, fingerprinting, check-writing, and interviews, we were officially on the waiting list for a child. We decided to adopt an infant domestically.

We were asked to fill out a seven page checklist of the characteristics and situations we would and wouldn't accept. This included health or mental problems in the child's birth mother to the race of the baby. Most issues were clear to us. Race was one of these. We just assumed we would have a child who "looked like" us---just like many other adoptive couples. So we checked "Caucasian."

Then we waited. For a year, we waited.

During that year, something inside me, another something I couldn't explain (much like the pre-diabetes diagnosis feeling) and couldn't shake was marinating in my soul. I soon determined what it was---I felt strongly convicted that our openness wasn't what it should have been. By only being open to a healthy, white infant, like many adoptive couples are, we were narrowing our chances of being chosen. And I wondered if God hadn't allowed us to become parents yet because He was waiting on us to open up to the child He had for us. I quickly began to examine my conviction, and I realized that I didn't want the baby that I hand picked---I wanted the baby God had for our family.

I began to ferverently seek information on transracial adoption. I talked to transracial families. I read books. I stalked online adoption forums. I found myself starting at the black babies with their parents at Wal-Mart. I couldn't read a magazine without dreaming of holding one of the brown babies in the advertisements.

My husband was more resistant. He wasn't sure he would be good enough for a black baby. He had valid points. Raising an adopted child is complicated. Compound that with raising an adopted black child in an all-white family? More complicated. He also worried about people's stares, comments, and questions----how would these things affect our family? How would our families feel about us parenting a child who didn't mirror our skin tone? All valid points.

But none of his concerns could sway me from my convictions. I knew that God wanted us to be open to all races. And I also knew that in my heart, I wanted to parent a black baby. No matter what I did or where I was, I couldn't stop thinking about a baby. A girl. A black baby girl.

After months of discussions (very late night discussions), meeting with transracial families, praying, examining our pasts, dissecting our attitudes, and reading literature, my husband and I informed our social worker that after one year of waiting, we were ready to update our homestudy to include our new openness: all races.

We weren't magically placed as I thought we might be---because yes, part of me hoped that if we did the right thing, we'd be quickly rewarded. We continued with our lives---going to work, celebrating holidays and birthdays, enjoying the end of summer and soon, the beginning of fall---and we entered our fourteenth month of waiting for a child. We worked on our home, including my newest project----painting the kitchen and dining area. But despite the busyness of everyday life, the possibility of getting THE call was always on my mind. Whenever I entered my home, I always made a beeline for the answering machine. Then I would double check my cell phone and my e-mail account....just in case.


I spent a few weeks tossing around color combination possibilities for the kitchen and dining room painting project----ahhh, something, ANYTHING, to divert my attention from the empty crib. And then finally one week the paint gallons went on sale (just $13 a gallon!), and I had the paint mixed. I chose a light yellow and a deep blue. The colors contrasted beautifully, though one wouldn't necessarily think of them being a good combination until seeing them together. I was happy to be moving forward on the project.

We got started mid-morning on a Saturday. My husband, as usual, painted the tricky areas of the room---the tops of the floorboards, the corners, above the cabinets. You see, I'm a sloppy painter. I merrily worked on the bigger (and safer) areas----big, blank walls, ready to be colored with my brush.

Our project continued well into the afternoon, though we tried to hurry because that evening we were going to see a play. We picked up our pace---each working at opposite ends of the room, singing along to the songs on the radio.

A little before 5:00 my husband's cell phone rang. He didn't recognize the number. I think I prompted him to pick it up anyway, as I usually do. He talked for a few seconds, looked stunned and confused, and said, "I'll let you talk to my wife."

On the other line was the social worker from our second adoption agency, the one we joined after eight months of waiting with just one, our first, agency. The social worker said they had a baby girl born that morning and the baby's mom wanted to look at profiles of adoptive parents. Would we be interested in having our profile shown?


Two hours later, on our way to the play, our stomachs in knots, the social worker called us back. We had been chosen. We needed to contact a lawyer and make plans to head out of state.

We were shocked. Overjoyed. And scared.

A few days later...

The baby girl did become ours. She not only made us a family but a transracial family.

Our daughter is black. We are white. Just like the contrasting colors on our kitchen walls, our family of one color became a family of two colors.

Let the adventures begin.

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to follow your newest blog. I love the picture you chose for the header. Very cute.


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