Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where This Road Leads, Only God Knows

I have long been adamant that my children won't be close in age if I have any say in the matter. Many of my friends and family members have or are parenting children whose birthdays practically overlap with less than a year or two between them.

I'm Type A, a planner, and someone who thrives on moments of peace and quiet. I have had that so far. My daughter is predictable and seemingly also enjoys the environment of steady bliss that radiates in our home. Cozy. Easy.

Society speaks one message but lives another. Society speaks that women CAN have it all---a full time job, a ever-happy marriage, great relationships with their children, a clean home, extracurricular activities, a stellar spiritual life/understanding, and more. But the reality is that this isn't possible---that something's got to give. The most we can have is 100%, and the division of efforts is never equal or balanced among all the categories or roles a women has.

Society also speaks that women can be blessed with loads of children and be truly happy---thus the infiltration and popularity of shows like 18 Kids and Counting and Jon and Kate Plus 8 (which yeah, didn't turn out so well, did it?). But those shows just give me anxiety, not a baby itch.

Despite the happy-happy facade that brims from celebrity magazines (another person having twins?) and mommy "how to do it all" manuals, the truth is that if the kids have it all, the woman loses something---either her physical health, her mental stability, her marriage, her career, her emotional balance, or something else.

So knowing what I've seen, and knowing my own personality, I long ago took a stand: I wouldn't have multiple children close in age. Call it selfish (I want time to write, to work part-time, to enjoy each child in the stage he or she is in) or call it crazy (don't you want to just have a ton of kids and get the diaper stage over with?), but I call it reasonable and smart.


Last week I got a text from a friend asking if I was watching the adoption special on television. I didn't know anything about it but I am always up for a good adoption special. :) We turned it on and watched the remainder of a one-hour special called A Home For the Holidays. Much of the show was scripted and honestly, hokey, and I have also been long determined to only adopt infants, not a child stuck in the foster care system. But after watching the special, I dashed to my office and found a national photolisting of children available for adoption. There are 100,000 children ready to be adopted in the United States.

I searched a few times based on age, race, and state. Sometimes I would click on a photo and up would come not only that child's photo, but the photos of the child's multiple siblings. Understandably, children do not want to be split from their siblings. But we live in a three bedroom ranch with no indication of moving soon.

Then I found her. Little R. A three year old residing 1000 or more miles away. Her eyes penetrated mine. Her profile description made my heart leap. Could this be our child?

I sent an information request. The next day, Christmas Eve, I received a phone number for R's social worker. I called but just got a voicemail. After we returned from a long holiday weekend, I called again. Voicemail. I called an hour later. This time the social worker picked up.

She could tell me very little about R due to confidentiality laws. But she said I could send in a copy of our homestudy for review. If the "team" (whoever they are) decided we might be a good match for R, we would be provided more information.

Honestly, this is scary stuff. Domestic adoption through a private agency, which is what we did with our daughter, is completely different. This is state-stuff. The government. Traveling 1000 miles away. A homestudy update.

As I write this, I am very conflicted. Last night I wrote a short letter to the social worker, complied our homestudy and homestudy update, and typed a fax cover sheet. At this moment all the documents are with my husband at work, ready to be faxed.

I didn't sleep very well last night. I can't figure out this ball of emotions, rational thoughts, irrational thoughts, and God's plan.

What I know is that adoption is NEVER smooth sailing. There are always bumps in the road. A friend suggested that it wouldn't hurt just to send in the homestudy and get more info. A nurse we know said the medical needs R has do not sound severe at all. Another friend suggested to pray our way through each choice, and whatever God wants will work out.

I feel strongly drawn to this little girl. Perhaps that means she will one day be ours. Or maybe it means we'll open our hearts to adopting from foster care. Or maybe it just means I need to pray for her and that's as far as this will ever go.

I'm confused. I don't know what to do. I want to send in the homestudy. I want to know more. But I'm not sure that is right.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Odd Conversation...

So last week one of my gym friends tells me that a man asked her about me (and the babe). He said that the baby was pretty, and was she mine? My friend said yes, that I adopted her.

(This man has only been coming to our gym for about a month or so. He's a very tall, African American man, in his sixties.)

Then the next day I'm in the gym hallway (holding the babe) chatting with a few friends and the man who asked about Ella and me walks by. He says to me, "Are you babysitting?" Um, did he not just ask someone yesterday if Ella was mine or not? So I said, "No, she's my daughter." I then say, "Can't you tell? She looks just like me." As a joke, of course. He then smiles and walks away.

Then a few days ago I walk into a step and weights class to hand something to one of my friends. The guy is in the class and says, "Aren't you the girl with the baby?" I say, "Yes, I have a baby." He says, "A girl?" I say yes.

Then, on my way out of the room, I stop to talk to another friend. The man comes up, interrupts us, and asks if he can talk to me for a minute. We step to the side and it goes like this:

Guy: Now, I'm sixty-nine years old.

Me: Nod.

Guy: Is that your baby that you bring here?

Me: Yes.

Guy: Where is she?

Me: In the nursery. (Um, where else would she be? Swimming by herself in the gym pool?)

Guy: I'm in my sixties, and I'm not used to this. (Ok, so are you trying to justify being so nosy/ignorant/rude/invasive?) Did they not have any [babies] of your own [race]?

Me: (Did he seriously just say that?!? I don't know whether to laugh, walk away, or respond. I respond.) We were open to the child God had for us.

Guy: Thinks for a moment. Was your husband, was he ok with that?

Me: (No, I adopted her secretly, and my husband has yet to notice she is black). Yes.

Guy: Well, it's nice to know some people are colorblind. (Obviously he's not....)

Odd. Really odd. I don't know what to make of it.

Is this a test? I was confident and not at all embarrassed or ashamed. I was slightly annoyed, though. How many times is this guy going to ask questions? And why does he assume that we adopted because we are colorblind? Who is colorblind/race-blind (besides people who are really, physically blind)? And why does he think stating his age is going to make me feel better? Well, maybe it makes him feel better.

I guess I admire the fact that he had the guts to talk to me. It sure beats a stare or a whisper. But those are few and far between. I mean, does this guy live under a rock? We live in a metro area full of interracial families.

Despite the odd, nosy conversation, I recognize that these questions and conversations (which rarely happen anymore but when they do, I'm ready) are opportunities to educate other people about adoption. It's sort of what I signed up for, I guess.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Road to Somewhere

I remember two Christmases ago. I was certain that soon we'd be chosen to adopt a baby. We were showered with gifts that year including a homemade "baby G" bib from my mom and a stack of farm and animal themed board books from my future brother-in-law who is a country boy, through and through. We spent the following months getting the nursery ready, talking about baby names, and imagining ourselves pushing a stroller through the mall along with all the other moms and dads. We were so ready.

We waited 11 more months. Little did I know that the Christmas I was anticipating a baby, my child wasn't even conceived yet.

I make a lot of plans in my life, and I am determined that the goals are met with precision and timeliness. I do what I can to scoot things along. It's in my blood. It's who I am.

But adoption was totally out of my control. I could put certain marks on the dreaded checklist (the one adoptive families get that states what they will and won't and might accept in an adoption situation). I could check my cell phone twenty times a day for a message from the social worker (don't want to miss THE call). I could reorganize the nursery closet every other week (which I did). But nothing would put me in the driver's seat of our adoption. And that's a good thing.

Some of the best things in life come from a road to somewhere....a road where we cannot see around the next curve or beyond the forest. We know we're headed in some direction to some destination, but most of it is a mystery. And it's not in our power to decide what happens when, where, how, or why. Thank God.

I have learned that I can't plan blessings, and that simplicity and surprise far surpasses plans and productions.

Christmas reminds us of this. Jesus came into the world in the most humble of ways. Though most storybooks paint a serene winter evening with a stable full of clean hay, smiling animals, and a glowing Mary, what really might have occurred was nothing like a Hallmark movie. It was supposedly summer---so probably hot. The animals probably smelled a little ripe. Mary was surely exhausted from traveling and then giving birth in a barn. Here's Joseph delivery his firstborn child with no medical degree. How humble and non-ideal is that? What woman today would give birth in a place and situation like that?

But the simplicity of the situation described in the Bible is its beauty. And the lack of control that Mary and Joesph had is equally as interesting and appealing.

Life is full of roads that lead us here and there. I hope that each turn leads you somewhere better and more beautiful than you ever could have planned or controlled. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Much Do You Share?

"How much do you share?" This was the question brought up on the adoption message board I frequent. Here's my personal belief and my response to the woman's question:

I share the following with almost anyone:
where she was born

that we stay in touch with her bio mom

how old E is

the agency we used

why we chose adoption

that we plan to adopt again

what I do not share with people we don't know well:
anything else not listed above

what is only shared with a few very close friends and our parents and siblings:

her birth name

select information about her bio mom such as her first name and age

personal information about our adoption experience

There are a few things we haven't shared with anyone simply because it's not necessary. It's not about being secretive as it is being respectful of my child and her bio mom.

My philosophy on this stems from my relatives who adopted, shared too much too soon, and their child was teased because of this information. They warned us not to share too much. Once info is out there, you can't take it back. And I want to be the one to tell my child information as it is appropriate for her age and understanding---not the neighbor or her grandparents or friends.

My advice---don't hand out information like candy on Halloween. I am not ashamed of any part of my child's adoption; however, I am also not going to give out information simply because people are curious. I have learned that it is OK not to answer questions!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Balancing Act

Is it possible to balance the joy I feel for my daughter's adoption and the sorrow I feel for the woman who gave her child to us?

It seems like the scale is always tipping in one direction or the other----that there never is a balance because the two emotions are not equal.

Adoption is presented as win-win by most agencies. The mom finds a family for her baby when parenting "just isn't possible," while the adoptive couple, many of whom cannot have children biologically, becomes parents. But the truth is, there is loss all the way around.

My first focus when we entered the world of adoption was our gain---we filled out some forms, created a profile, paid some money, waited and then got a baby. WIN! But truly, getting to that place of an adoption decision wasn't and is never easy. Many couples face years, even decades of infertility treatments. In our case, we faced my life-altering diagnosis of diabetes, one that changed our life plans forever. Other couples face cancer, or genetic risks. There's always a loss that leads couples to another door: adoption.

As I began to learn more about birth parents, who are also called biological parents, first parents, or natural parents, depending on who one asks, I began to slowly realize that there is a losing side to adoption. That my gain is someone else's loss. And that birth parents to not "get over" or "move past" the loss of their children. That these parents will always have an ache in their hearts for their children. Even when they truly believe they are at peace or "did the right/unselfish thing"---there is nothing or no one who can fulfill the place that is designated, by nature, for their child.

I am now slowly learning more about the adoptee perspective. When I first started the process, I was thinking only about getting the nursery ready and holding a sweet baby while sitting in front of a Christmas tree, or imagining myself pushing my baby in a stroller in the spring air while listening to singing birds. Yeah, total Hallmark movie, right? But I'm learning more what adoption might mean for my daughter. It's scary stuff, this new information, yet I crave it. I want to be prepared to address her concerns and questions.

No matter what I've learned presently and what I didn't know in the past, I have always wanted to do the best and right thing. Any parent does. My situation doesn't just include a parent, me, and a baby, her, but also the person who birthed my daughter, who carried her inside of her for thirty-nine weeks. (When my daughter turned nine months old, I realized that this milestone was "outnumbered" by the amount of time her first mother had carried her. Wow.) And how do I put all that together and "do the right thing"? And is it my job to do this?

Don't get me wrong. I am thankful for my child and for the woman who chose us to parent her baby. I am thankful that God's hand was in our adoption situation. I am thankful for every day that I get to spend with my daughter and the never-ending access I have to God to pray for my child's biological mother---which I do...daily.

But inside me, there is always a conflict, one that won't stop. It isn't out of guilt---I didn't choose my baby; my baby was chosen to be placed with us. It isn't out of obligation---because people can brush aside or forget about obligations. It isn't out of feelings---because feelings come and go.

It's really out of the fact that I know. I KNOW. The education, the knowledge, is powerful. Ignorance is far more blissful, and it's also wrong because ignorance is a chosen behavior in many cases. Sincerely. I believe that after one knows and understands that adoption isn't a win-win or a perfect solution, that there are dark places and dusty corners, that joy from one parent and sorrow from another are forever and intricately intertwined, that one has a responsibility to carry that knowledge, to refer to that knowledge, and to take some sort of action, whatever that may be in each person's situation.

The balance of the overwhelming joy I feel every single moment I am with my child and the sorrow I feel for the woman who is without those joys is altogether difficult and never-ending. I'm not sure I'll ever go back to that win-win-happy-go-lucky attitude toward adoption. And I'm not sure I want to.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Adoption is the Best Option

I am quite tired of Christians promoting the idea that "adoption is the BEST option" for an unmarried, young (or youngish) woman who finds herself pregnant and often alone. What Bible did they pull this idea from? And what gives any person the right to tell another what she should be doing with her own flesh and blood?

I am convinced...

that young mothers and single mothers can be good mothers. But they often need support to do so.

that adoptive families aren't perfect, and behind the Disney vacations and four bedroom homes, they have issues, too. We aren't saints. We are just people.

that, as a friend recently said, adoption has become the "Christian abortion." (In my humble explanation, and PLEASE read the comments below this post for more discussion on this statement/idea, Christians promote the idea of young women NOT aborting because if they really don't want their babies, which is a whole different argument/discussion, they should give them to families who "can't have their own.")

that adoption and abortion do not go hand-in-hand. They are two totally separate issues and decisions.

that adoption and abortion both create a lifetime of loss and grief.

that just because someone had sex outside of marriage doesn't mean the baby automatically should go to a "good family who can't have children."

that a baby has needs NOW, and that those needs must be considered...not just the feelings of the bio parents and/or the adoptive family.

that a mom who wants to parent her baby isn't selfish. She's a mother who wants to keep what is hers because she loves that child with all of her heart.

that a baby isn't a gift to be given away.

that all birth parents aren't courageous and unselfish for placing their babies. Perhaps they are just scared and pressured.

that the birth parents will eventually get over or "move past" the loss of their child through adoption.

that adoption is a loss, for everyone involved.

that my gain, as an adoptive parent, comes at a high cost to someone else.

that my baby is a wonderful blessing, no matter what.

that I am a "real mom" with "my own child."

that my daughter has two mothers. And that is OK.

that my child will experience joys and sorrows associated with her adoption.

that Christians need to offer an expectant mother support, not uneducated advice based on stereotypes and personal feelings.

that adoption can be a beautiful thing, but it isn't perfect or pretty.

that I will never stop thinking and praying for my daughter's biological mother.

that God can orchestrate an adoption situation even when humans are relentlessly attempting to screw it all up.

that this whole adoption thing is complicated beyond words.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kwanzaa: What Do I Know? What Do We Do?

Kwanzaa---something I knew nothing about until last year. And even now, I do not know much.

First, is it something many, most, or some black people in the U.S. celebrate?

Why is it important?

Is Christmas for white people, Kwanzaa for black people? Or is Christmas for all, and Kwanzaa for some?

Will my daughter miss out on an important part of black culture if we don't celebrate Kwanzaa?

When I Google Kwanzaa, am I getting accurate information?

Is Kwanzaa in line with, against, or unrelated to the Christmas traditions? The Bible? Current black culture?

Does our family, made up of two white people and a black little girl, fit into Kwanzaa, or are we just impostors?