Friday, October 29, 2010

On My Nightstand

I just finished another wonderful adoption book called Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption by Scott Simon (NPR host).

There are few adoption books written by men, so I wanted to be sure to check this book out so, if approved by me, could be added to my adoption resource list.

Here are some excerpts:

"[. . .] while adoption is a miracle, miracles finally take their places in our lives alongside more mundane things on our shelves and blend together. Adoption is a fact of life, not a trauma to overcome" (50).

Note: That last sentence has been rolling around in my mind for days. What do you think? Is adoption a fact of life, as the author says, and NOT a trauma to overcome?

After discussing the ways in which he and his wife embrace and integrate Chinese culture into their lives, the author shares, "But while our daughters' ethnicity is one of the first labels that can be fixed on them, it does not account for and outweigh everything else that they are" (64).

Note: I found this very interesting, because sometimes my focus is SO much on helping my daughter be as black as possible, even though she is, in some ways, white (by association). But in essence, my daughter is a person first, not a BLACK person. I work hard to make sure her hair is "right," that she knows about Rosa Parks and MLK, that we find black angels and black Santas to decorate with for Christmas, etc. And maybe these things matter, and maybe they don't matter a lot. I don't really know, but I want to try and give it a good shot. Shrug.

"Adoptions don't cut off children from learning about their culture (or, in our family's case, and millions more, cultures), lineage, or heritage. They widen the human stream that sustains heritage" (80).

Note: I love how diverse our family is, simply because of its makeup (my family, husband's family, and now our family, built through adoption), its ethnicity black-white-white-black, and its unit (different and beautiful).

"There are times when our daughters have a difficult time with change: saying goodbye, or even goodnight, moving (if even, as we have, across the street), graduating from kindergarten, or ice cream shops that suddenly run out of the sprinkles that they had counted on having. Tantrums are a time-tested way of letting the world, as well as your parents, know that you'd like to call a halt to the rotation of the earth and the momentum of history for one damn minute and make the world pay attention to you. This kind of behavior is scarcely unique to children who have been adopted. But some of these ordinary anxieties might pinch a nerve with children who feel that they have been rejected in life before they had a chance to prove how lovable they are" (128).

Note: I have done little research on international and foster care adoption, but the author's last line speaks volumes to me.

The author's wife shares with her daughter (in regards to growing up): "When you're young, you want to be like everyone else. I know. People used to make fun of my hair, my clothes, my accent [French]. But when you're older, you'll see that it's good to be different. You don't want to be like everybody else. The things that make you different make you more interesting. We went all the way around the world to get you. When you're older---just a little older---you'll realize that everything you think is a problem now is actually something good. They'll be your strong points. And you will be strong" (136-137).

Note: I haven't done as much research yet on adoptees as I would like to. This passage confused me some. (The author had previously discussed the primal wound, the idea that children who are adopted have a wound because they are not with their biological parents). I once started to read a book, a very popular book, called Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew, and got so consumed with guilt and confusion that I took it back to the library unfinished. The book was negative (though perhaps realistic?)---stating, in sum, that adopted kids are all a little jacked from the get-go because they aren't with their biological parents. STAB to an adoptive parent's heart, because I try really hard to promote adoption openness (reading books, visiting with my daughter's birth family, promoting racial awareness, etc.)---but I realize that my efforts, no matter how well-meaning and successful, do not eradicate the fact that my daughter will always have a piece of her that is somewhere else.

"Pregnancies can be accidental," says Stephen Segaller (an adoptee). "Adoptions never are. Those of us who are adopted have every reason to feel snug and secure. Loved above and beyond, really" (149).

Note: Interesting. Clearly one person's opinion. But interesting.

"Those of us who have been adopted, or have adopted or want to adopt children, must believe in a world in which the tumblers of the universe can click in unfathomable ways that deliver strangers into our lives. The tectonic plates shift, the radiation belt springs a small hole, and children from the other side of the world, or the other side of the street, can wind up feeling utterly right in our arms" (177).

Note: I call this God. :)

As I mentioned earlier this month, I have stepped away from my beloved online adoption forum (one I was beyond addicted to) to instead learn about adoption on my own terms. This book has provided me with another tiny piece of adoption education---a place where I can challenge my beliefs, question my practices, and above all, appreciate the beautiful child I have.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Adoptees in Children's Literature

Miss E (bottom left) watching Curious George and the employee/story reader

Last month, we had the opportunity to meet Curious George at Barnes and Noble. My daughter doesn't know any characters from shows (we do not allow her to watch much television), but she has a new found love for monkeys.

It dawned on me that day that Curious George is adopted by the man in the yellow hat! And this is clearly a transracial adoption of sorts!
Also, on a whim, I purchased three used videos back in March to take on vacation with us (10 hours in the car + a toddler=DVD player). One of these movies was Barnyard which turned out to be hysterical! And there was an adoption theme in the movie---TWICE!

Can you think of other adoptees in children's literature and/or movies? I'd love to explore this topic further.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simply Divine

Friday, October 15, 2010

On My Nightstand

I am always reading adoption and diversity-related books to not only broaden my understanding but to add to my resources list to give to potential and waiting adoptive families.

The Brotherhood of Joseph: A Father's Memoir of Infertility and Adoption in the 21st Century (Brooks Hansen): I honestly do not know much about infertility beyond what friend's have shared with me. The main reason I picked up this book was to learn about adoption from a man's point of view, as so many adoption books are geared toward and written by females. I love how the author is blatantly honest and shares, "Up until this whole fertility debacle, I'd always thought of myself as being pretty successful. No rags-to-riches hero, by any stretch, but someone who'd played his fortunes well, knew how to sight some pretty ambitious goals and see them through. So this prolonged ordeal with the clinics and syringes wasn't just painful and discouraging; it pretty much defied everything I thought I knew about myself" (53).

On the topic of adoptees, the author says, "And any time I've spoken to other adopted children [outside two of his cousins who were adopted], I'm impressed by the same moral: there is no moral. There is no norm. And that is good news, I think" (86).

The author compares adoption choices, particularly the "laundry list of variables" on those dreaded "what will you accept" checklists, like "Off Track Betting" (87). He goes on to say, "A bunch of factors that, if all goes well and love prevails, will end up having very little to do with the relationship you forge with your child, he or she being an individual first, not a gender, race, expense, or some unforeseen medical condition waiting to unfold. And yet a decision must be made. You literally cannot move forward without answering these questions and putting them in order, and you can't do that without feeling terribly cheap, impatient, selfish, cowardly, or bigoted" (88).

On the topic of international adoption: "[. . .] the process of adopting from a foreign country is a little like playing poker for the first time with your drunk older cousins. The rules keep changing. You're never sure who to trust, and there's a good chance the whole thing will end in tears and scandal" (100).

In a conversation with his wife, his thoughts based on the Biblical encounter between John and John's followers, "Faith isn't something you inherit; it's not even something you feel. It's something you have to do" (169). Interesting.

I don't agree with all of Hansen's opinions on adoption, but I can appreciate his experience, which is shared in detail, and again, I'm so thankful to read something written by a man in a female-driven adoption industry.

The Sandwich Swap (Queen Rania Al Abdullah): I loved this book (written for children ages 3-7, says the inner cover)! In sum, the book is about two young girls who are best friends and do many activities together every day, including eat lunch. Though they both think the other's lunch is yucky (one has pb and j, the other a hummus sandwich). The school erupts into a food fight based on the increasing friction between the two best friends, and in the end, of course, there's a happy ending. The girls try each other's lunches and discover something new, different, and yummy! I love how this book teaches tolerance and diversity in a practical way (with cute illustrations).

The Family Book (Todd Parr): Parr's simple and humorous sentences along with bright and baby-to-child friendly illustrations make this book a hit. My favorites lines are "Some families are different colors" and "Some families adopt children."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Adoption in the Bible

...doesn't equal God's will as the adoption system is today.

I've been reading a chapter a day (well, um, mostly) from the New Testament. At the time I write this blog post, I'm in Romans where Paul mentions "adoption" a lot, referring to people being adopted by God through salvation.

I've seen in many "Dear Birthmom" letters online the concept that God loves adoption----OBVIOUSLY! If He didn't, why is the word used so many times in the Bible? What about Moses or Jesus Himself? They were adopted! Woo hoo! :)

I admit that at one time my beliefs were similar. Shamefully, I took Bible verses out of context to support my views. What I wasn't doing was examining the fact that the use of the word adoption in Scripture isn't the same as the current domestic infant adoption system in the U.S. Seems like a total "DUH," doesn't it? But if you're in the rat race to adopt a child, enveloped in a fierce baby competition, your view is a little clouded. Just a little. :)

If you're interested, here's some commentary on adoption in the Bible. I didn't read these webpages in full; however, I did skim them for general thoughts. I noticed on these pages, as I did in my Bible reading, that adoption is mostly (if not always?) a spiritual referral.

What I'm getting at is that Christian couples who are considering adoption need to examine, and I mean REALLY examine, their own hearts and the adoption system. They need to make the best choices they can because they are choosing with their dollars to support an agency or an attorney. They are voting for certain practices by writing checks (investing money) into an adoption process. It's crucial to ask tough questions, and above all, to examine one's own heart and ask God to point out areas of selfishness, entitlement, deception, misconduct, misleading, etc.

I'm blessed to have met so many women, both online and IRL, who have connected me to adoption doors I probably wouldn't have opened otherwise. I'm grateful for those who pointed out another way to look at adoption besides just the "hearts and roses" (as some of my online friends call it) version. I'm thankful for authors who blog or write books or articles that speak their adoption truths---though they may not always be right in my eyes, they create in me an urge to learn more. My daughter, my future children, my spouse, my children's birth families, the hopeful potentital adoptive mothers I meet, etc. need to encouter the best woman I can be.

When human lives and hearts are involved, there's so much on the line. I hope that today you are stirred to learn and grow in adoption as God would have you.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How Much Should You Carry?

I always try to live a life of balance, though I don't usually succeed. I have a strong type A personality---persistent, demanding, controlling. I have high standards. I give my best and expect the best from others. I organize, I plan, and I execute. I follow through on my promises. And when I get hooked on a project, I'll plow through it without apology until it's completed. I seek solutions.

Some of these attributes benefit me tremendously in life, particularly with my diabetes. I'm an educated, demanding, and good patient. I don't mess around when it comes to my health. Being Miss Type A also helped me in school and in our adoption process. I had assignments (whether it they were essays or adoption self-studies) done weeks before the due date.

I'm on my game.

However, when I get hung up on something, I'm on it. Call it addiction, call it obsession, but I just call it me. Every perk has it's downside, and this is mine.

Let me explain. I have been part of an online adoption community for a few years. I have made many friends there, and I have had numerous opportunities to learn about various adoption issues, including and most importantly to me, the challenges faced by all members of the adoption triad: adoptive parents, adoptees, and birth parents. Furthermore, I facilitate and adoptive mama group and am always reading adoption books to add to my adoption resource page which I distribute to new adoptive families.

In August, after a LONG and sweltering summer (one we spent a lot of time indoors because 115+ temperatures), I was getting quite tired of my beloved online adoption community. It wasn't them; it was me. (I know, that sounds like a typical bad breakup line). Honestly, I had become emotionally attached to some of the women (many of whom, mind you, I've never even met in person) and their feelings surrounding adoption, that I was getting more and more wrapped up and jaded about this question: Can adoption ever be ok?

This question comes from me, one who doesn't believe adoption is a perfect system that creates a win-win-win situation for the adoptive family, the adoptee, and the birth parents. Someone always loses in some way. Loss is required of adoption. Adoptive families typically do not choose adoption without some sort of loss, be it fertility or the loss of something else (like my beta cells---uggggg). Birth parents lose a child, though the PC language is that they "place" their children for adoption. Adoptees lose the experience of being raised by their birth families---and they have no choice in the matter. I think it's only fair to everyone involved to recognize these losses. Adoption isn't a happy-go-lucky experience, though no doubt there are joys.

I was so overwhelmed by the emotions of others and my own conflicting feelings about adoption, that I jumped onto a new project: a book. It was to be an anthology of essays written by adoption triad members. This book was to be RAW---no adoption fluff allowed. I am a person of action---and so, I was going to do something!

I prayed that God would give me clear answer----write the book or not. After all, it would be a major commitment. I was about to start work again (43 students=lots of grading) in addition to my regular role as a mom, wife, and homemaker. Oh yes, and then I had my freelance writing, my blogs, and my volunteering. And Mommy and Me Dance class.

Being the planner I am, I generated a Call for Submissions and continued to wait on God---write the book or not? I then wrote a book introduction. And kept praying.

God never gave me a clear answer, though I felt, finally, after some careful self-analysis, that writing a book out of conflict and overwhelming emotions probably wasn't the best motivator. The book, really, was for me. I wanted something to help me sort and clarify my current adoption feelings.

I have been setting my book project aside----maybe forever, maybe not. As I write this blog post, I've also been taking a much-needed break from my online adoption community. As always, I do have a stack of books on my nightstand, half of which are adoption-related. I can't bring myself to stop learning about adoption. I'm also planning our next adoptive mama meeting. My daughter deserves an adoption-educated mommy. And I need to know what the heck I'm doing as an adoptive parent.

It's funny because my everyday life has little-to-nothing to do with adoption. I eat, I workout, I play with my daughter, I go to work, I make dinner, I hang out with my husband, I go to bed. But there is always a lingering thought tucked away in the back of my mind. A new concern or question.

I get frustrated with myself at times. I do enjoy my family, every single day, but I also never forget that adoption is pretty messed up sometimes.

I question:

How much "adoption" should I carry with me every day?

Does God ever will that an adoption happen?

Is is mostly always best that birth parents and their children stay together?

Can a birth mother ever be confident in her decision to place her baby? Can she ever be truly happy with that choice?

Should adoptive families adopt and move forward, never lingering in "what ifs" and conflicting thoughts?

What is the best balance for the adoptee? How should adoption be presented to the child?

I don't want to put on an ignorant Christian coat and go along my merry little way, believing, as many Christians claim, that Jesus LOVES adoption PERIOD. People matter to God. All people. Not just the wants of adoptive parents to become parents.

However, I'm realizing more and more that even though there are seasons to any person's life (Ecclesiastes 3:1), adoptive parents like myself need to keep perspective, which is best stated in Philippians 4:

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I am working on focusing on what is "true," "noble," "right," "pure," "lovely," and "admirable." That doesn't mean I'm dismissing the hardships and imperfections in the adoption system. This doesn't mean I won't have moments of heartache for my child's birth mother (and for any birth mother) or be ever mindful of their pain. What this does mean is that first and foremost, I do have peace about our adoption situation and I know God's hand was in it. I know that I need to guard my heart and mind (v.7). I need to be thankful and give my anxious thoughts and feelings to the One. All the fretting in the world, all the anxiousness, all the negativity---what does it breed other than more problems?

I thought writing a book would book would be the best option for my adoption questions and conflicts, but I'm learning that reading THE Book is a much better choice.

Readers, I hope you are continuously learning about adoption. I hope to never cease to be a student. But I also hope you are living Philippians 4:6-8. The message is rather simple: be thankful, meditate on the good, and by all means, give whatever your struggles are to God. When you do these things, God promises you peace that surpasses all understanding (7).