Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Letter to Birth Mothers (for my Readers observation)

Dear biological/natural/birth/first mothers,

I'm sorry.

I'm embarrassed, as an adoptive mother, to hear some of the comments and assumptions people make about you based on nothing but stereotypes. People assume you are all very young, uneducated, on drugs, incompetent, unloving, and dangerous.

My heart aches each time I hear a stereotype being spewed into conversations. These ugly words perpetuate myths and insults.

I know you are women who care about your babies. I know you love the children you placed. I know each of you didn't place out of truth, but out of lies, manipulations, and pressures. I know that your heart aches every day for the children you placed; and I know you will never "get over" or "move past" that choice. I know your children are always in your hearts, and your decision to place them, it never goes away. You probably never stop analyzing it. It creeps back into your brain at times when you least expect it or when you don't want it to keep you company in a baby store, at church, while you're at school, when you're at work.

I don't get "all things birth mother." I'm not an expert. I don't have a psychology degree. But I do have a very close friend who is a birth mother. And my daughter has a birth mother, one whom I love, respect, and care very much about. One who deserves better than the ugly words and thoughts that surround them.

I'm sorry you are judged. I'm sorry you are labeled. I'm sorry you aren't given a chance beyond the label. I'm sorry people have no idea who you really are but insist on making a claim or a judgement against you simply because of one of your life choices. I'm sorry.

I hope that when I'm confronted with questions and comments, I say and do the right things. I don't have all the answers, but I want you to know I'm trying. Sometimes I'd rather change the subject, or ignore the question, or brush off the comment. But I know that's not right. I know I have to do what is right. I have to try.

I hope that if you are reading this, that you won't stop trying. Standing up for what is right does make a difference to someone, somewhere, somehow. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't try myself.

God bless you as you forever mourn the loss of your children, as you work through adoption time and time and time again, and as you grow, change, and learn.

Love, Rachel

Monday, July 26, 2010

Brown Babies---In Clearance

Why are the brown babies dolls so often in clearance, while the white babies are full price? (A recent trip to my local Target yielded these photographs).

Reminds me somewhat of adoption. Some agencies charge a lesser placement fee for "special needs" children, including children who are black. I guess the attempt is to lure in families to be open to certain races by offering a "discount"?

The truth is, there is a need for domestic infant adoption of black children. There are dozens of families lined up, desperately waiting for a healthy, white infant. But for black children, there is hardly any sort of line.
But adopting a child of color shouldn't be a financial decision in domestic infant adoption. Because a child is black forever and ever. Adoption or induction of a black child into a white family doesn't erase the child's need or desire to understand, to enjoy, to learn, and to partake in his or her racial identity.
It disturbs me greatly that any person would adopt a child as a means to a lesser wait time or because the cost is less.
The core issue, I think, in domestic infant adoption in general, is a lack of education---with adoptive families, agencies, and biological families. Knowledge is power in adoption.
I don't have everything adoption all figured out, but I'm determined to learn, grow, and change constantly, because my child deserves the best possibilities and opportunities.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brown Babies!

If you've been reading this blog for some time, you know how excited I get when I find any brown-baby toy or book or decoration. I'm a mama on a mission---hunting down the most beautiful brown baby items for Miss E. My latest finds came from Pottery Barn Kids.

We were visiting Miss E's birth family one weekend in June and stumbled upon (seriously) a PBK, one of my all time favorite places to shop. (How did I not know there was one just one mile from our hotel?!?!?) They were having a sidewalk sale. The 90 degree heat and blazing sun couldn't stop me from digging through bins and examining tables.

We got a lovely mermaid set (3 fabric and yarn-haired mermaids plus 3 instruments) in a seashell bag for $20. It's original price was $60!!! One of the employees had marked the sets down because each was missing one of the dolls---but my husband (my hero!) found a complete set. Why is this so special? One of the mermaids is a brown girl! Woo hoo!

Additionally, we picked up a Madame Alexander doll, "Lauren," for $13. She'll be put aside for Miss E's birthday. The original price was $40. I like this doll because it's larger than a Barbie and is more natural (no big boobs or unnaturally high feet).

Earlier that day, we met a friend (met online---a fellow adoptive mama) and her twin girls (adopted from Korea) at Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Of course, we HAD to visit the "Old Country Store" after eating. There we discovered small, wooden dolls. We purchased two Asian dolls for the twins and a brown one for Miss E (see the doll in the middle of the photo).

Sometimes I question if I'm over-the-top in my quest to find all things brown for my girl. (If you know me IRL---in real life---you know I can be a bit demanding...). However, my readers assured me (see comments on the linked post) that when it comes to transracial adoption, there's no such thing as too much support of a child's racial identity.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Favorite Things: Adoption-Education Books for Adoptive Parents

Welcome to "Favorite Things," my new series that focuses on adoption resources that have helped my family.

Today's "Favorite Things" features my top four adoption-education book selections for adoptive parents.

The Girls Who Went Away (Ann Fessler)

Raising Adopted Children (Lois Ruskai Melina)

Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother (Jana Wolff)

The Open Adoption Experience (Lois Ruskai Melina and Sharon Kaplan Roszia)

Monday, July 12, 2010

You Ask, I Answer: Hair Products

Because I've been asked so many times....

We are currently using Carol's Daughter hair products on Miss E's hair. We've tried two other product lines (one from Wal-Mart called Just For Me and an herbal line out of Chicago....I forget the name). I decided to switch after CD was recommended to me by a friend (white mama with a brown baby boy) whose son's hair smelled like heaven.

I'm going with Carol's Daughter products for a few reasons:

  • They smell fabulous---unlike most ethnic hair care products.

  • They are free of many of the nasty chemicals contained in other products like parabens, unknown fragrances, etc.

  • They are moderately priced. The website often offers free shipping, and if you search the Net, you can often find coupon codes for 10% off. Some Macy's stores now have Carol's Daughter booths, which I recommend visiting if you are buying the products for the first time and like me, are sensitive to scents.

Specifically, we use:

  • The Princess and the Frog Shampoo (once every three weeks)

  • The Princess and the Frog Conditioner (twice a week)

  • The Tui Leave-in Conditioner (daily)

  • Hair Milk (daily)

  • Tui Hair Oil (twice a week)

Additionally, I will rub straight up (yup) coconut oil on her scalp which has been exceedingly dry lately.

My goal is to keep Miss E's hair as natural as possible. So many black women have told me "keep it natural" based on their perms and products gone-bad experiences. Because black hair is so dry and often fragile, one bad "beauty" treatment can ruin their hair.

Trial and error is how this whole hair thing works, and hopefully I won't have to try anything new for a long, long time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Presenting Adoption

Recently, we arranged to lead an adoption education/Q and A session at our agency. Being a transracial family in an open adoption has been an experience that our social worker thought should be shared with waiting families.

I spent a few weeks reading many adoption books to add to our resource list. (If you would like a copy of our resource list, you can leave a comment on this post, along with your e-mail address, and I will happily send it to you). I found so many wonderful titles which I ordered from our local library, including books on transracial adoption, bringing a new sibling into the family, adoptee feelings, children's books, parent books, and so many more.

I also spent some time considering my daughter's outfit (of course!) and found a beautiful, adoption-themed t-shirt on Etsy. (See above photo). The seller offers a variety of merchandise---browse away, readers!
Additionally, I created a two page list of tips based on our adoption experience and education. I divided the list into three categories (while you wait, when placed, after placement). (Again, if you leave a comment with your e-mail, I'll send it to you).
We arrived at the agency right on time and gathered in a large room, sitting in a circle. We told our adoption story, handed out a questionnaire (to get the ball rolling), and then opened up the conversation to questions. Here's some of what we were asked and a summary of what was said:
Q: Openness intimidates us. What can you share?
A: Our openness was gradual. We were ready to be fully open from the beginning, but our social worker wisely advised us to let the relationship grow slowly. As when you meet anyone new, you don't immediately share your most intimate personal information. We have a relationship with our daughter's birth mother that has grown organically over time. We started with sending photos and letters. Then we opened up an e-mail account just for our correspondence. Then we exchanged phone numbers. Then we had a visit. My (Rachel's) thought is this: the woman gave us her child. What reason do we have to withhold that child from her?
Additionally, we know that we are the gatekeepers of our daughter's connection with her biological family. We take that responsibility seriously. We know that our daughter will probably want information on her biological family. Who are we to deny her that? We feel it's important for our daughter's sake to maintain a connection with her biological family.
Note: My personal belief is that adoptive parents hold back because of insecurities often based on stereotypes and misinformation. Adoption education helps greatly!
Q: How do you do her hair?
A: We talked to other transracial families, we humbly took advice from strangers (including two black women who escorted us all over a Super Target, pointing out various products), and we found resources. There are You Tube videos on how to do hair.
Note: We are asked this question all the time. :)
Q: What do you do while you wait for your child? It's hard to wait! Up until this point we had paperwork to keep us busy.
A: We have a whole list of tips for waiting families. I think it's important to "nest" as any expecting family. Get the nursery ready, scrapbook, write letters to your future child.
Keep in mind that adoption is ALL about waiting. You wait to start waiting--haha, you wait for a match, you wait to finalize, you wait for communication, you wait, and wait, and wait. God taught me a lot about patience and that continues now.
Other Topics of Discussion:
  • Families need to understand that a match isn't a guaranteed placement. That baby belongs to his or her biological family if and until that child is legally placed.
  • It's not appropriate, we believe, to put a biological family's personal information on blogs, Facebook, adoption message boards, etc. That can be hurtful and harmful to all involved.
  • An open adoption, a transracial adoption, a special needs placement, etc. aren't for everyone. However, each person, we advise, should pray about their decisions and let God lead.
  • It's essential to be educated! Education eases fears and changes hearts.

We were blessed with the opportunity to meet with waiting families. While we were waiting, many families and individuals took the time to educate us, and we feel that passing on this education will be a positive force in people's lives.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Miss E is totally infatuated with water. Which as many of you brown baby mamas know, water can be a brown baby's worst hair enemy.

Yet when it's nearly one hundred degrees here in the Midwest on a daily basis, I can't help but drag out the water table or the swimming pool (see above). Additionally, Miss E loves fountain gazing (as seen above; photo taken outside our library) and drinking out of the bathroom sink. Her most recent discovery is the joy of pouring a cup of anything liquid (one time MILK---oh no!) into her freshly done hair.

It's interesting to me that white children can frolic in streams of water while their parents sip lemonade on the sidelines while I'm thinking about Miss E's ever-drying hair and skin and how hard I work to keep the moisture in. As tempting as it is to say, "NOOOOOOOOOOO" like in a dramatic movie voice, I usually try to distract her with something else or just smile because she's smiling and let it go.
Being a white mama to a brown baby has sure been a learning experience and brings on its own set of unique challenges.