Category Archives: Adoption Advocacy

Ten Things on Thursday: 9/30/2021

  1. I’m on vacation!
  2. But first, I’m watching FL news and a young woman of color named Mya Marcano is missing. She’s been missing for a week. The FBI just decided to join. And a Black man is missing in Broward County. I *know* I would never have heard about these folks but for I wanted a little US news while in another country.
  3. It’s not that I think Gabby Pettito (sp) shouldn’t have got all that attention, but being young, white, blond, Eurocentrically pretty, thin and doing an instagram blog of her and dude’s great White adventure in a van helped drive that attention.
  4. It’s that I need that same energy for BIPOC folk who are missing. I need that same energy for everyone. Seeing the attention and resources always directed in one direction is really painful.
  5. BTW: I’m purposefully no longer saying “conventionally pretty.” What’s conventional about it beyond an fixation on Whiteness and White features. POC who are considered pretty, often have some features that mirrors White features–slim noses and lips, hair texture that is free of kinks, slim body with slim hips and butt. Those POC features that we celebrate are exceptions, caricatures at times. So, I’m going to narrow the scope and be specific about the generally accepted beauty standard, while recognizing that there are others.
  6. Now, back to my vacation. I’m here in Mexico alone. I’ve lain on the beach for a couple of days. I’ve eaten fairly modestly. I’ve drank excessively and alllllllll day. The beach bartender takes good care of me and quickly realized that if he just put the drinks in my steel cup, it would save himself some trips to my chair.
  7. I’ve got one more day before heading home; had my COVID test today.
  8. One thing I’ve done daily is read the WashPo and the NYTimes scrolling all the way to the bottom. The luxury of just reading the paper for enjoyment and to to find out if the world is going to end soon. I mean, it is, but I was reading to to read. I also allowed myself to read about rando ish I’m just curious about. I mean I usually do that, but this is more researchy stuff. I’ve realized I’ve neglected my nerdiness in ways I have been to overwhelmed to notice. That made me sad. Another daquiri helped.
  9. And I’m reading a book. At current rate it’s possible I might finish it before returning to work.
  10. I needed this and I”m looking forward to going home to my Hope and Yappy. I’m feeing refreshed!

Ten Things on Friday: 9/24/2021

  1. I’m feeling the joy of knowing in a few hours I will be leave for more than a week. I seriously cannot wait to get on that plane, land and head to the beach.
  2. Hope will hold down the fort for about 5 days. I know she can do it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t also say that I fret. I’m guessing that’s just a mom thing.
  3. I’m also fretting about Yappy. He’s so attached to me and this will be the longest I’ve been away from him since the beginning of the pandemic. I know he will be a bit sad as a result, and well, that also makes me sad.
  4. I’m still going to the beach tho.
  5. I actually do not plan to do much big “thinking” on this trip. I’m tired of thinking. Work-think and Home-think have just been exhausting for the last year and a half. I do have some life decisions coming up to ponder, but I have no interest in pondering them next week. My brain needs rest, and I genuinely intend to meet its need.
  6. It feels like so much has changed in the last year, and somehow also that nothing has changed. It’s a really kind of confusing reality. The monotony of life continued, though it looks different now. You watch the news and it’s almost overwhelming how much is going on, but then again, didn’t I think that in the “before” times? Especially when that dude who was in office couldn’t stop tweeting? Anyway, I have some decisions to make about parenting, about my personal and professional futures, about home stuff, extended family stuff. Some things I need to move on, others can wait, and yet somehow everything always seems urgent.
  7. It’s not and I plan to rest. I’m nearly giddy.
  8. Today is the last day that Hope and I will be able to have dinner together before I leave so we planning to get takeout. It’s looking like we’ll be getting Indian food. Naan…..YUMMMM.
  9. I’m thinking about opening a small Etsy store for some crochet items this fall/winter. I’m thinking of selling custom dog/cat sweaters. I’ll be sketching out a few projects over the next few weeks. I enjoy it and Lord knows I’ve given away tons of stuff in the last 2 years. I think I’ll still have giveaway projects, but I think I’d like to hustle a little. We’ll see!
  10. Today I’m setting out all the self-care items I plan to take with me. I’ve got a short list, but I think I’m going to put them all out and make final decisions. I seriously can’t wait to get out of town.

Adoption Musings on a Sunday

I just couldn’t manage a midweek post between work and tending to Hope’s injury. I’ve been to multiple stores and had multiple Amazon deliveries to make sure we have what’s needed. Dressings need to be changed often so even though I bought a lot right at the beginning, she blew through things quickly.

She’s improving a lot, though the pain is still pretty bad. Blisters popped and revealed the very tender, super vulnerable new skin beneath it. No infection and no worsening, so, so far, so good. Burn unit consult this week.

I’ve been thinking so much about adoption lately. I’m pretty certain because 8 years ago in August/September, I saw Hope’s profile for the first time. I remember there was a video of her having been on one of those Wednesday’s kids spots for the local news. I remember sitting at my desk at work, looking at the video feeling such a rush of different emotions. Love at first sight. Terror, as in, WTF are you doing??? Joy as I watched her bounce around. I excitedly sent the video to my mom, where she watched at her office desk. I called her and I remember saying something to the effect of, “This is her, this is the child that is going to be my daughter.” I just knew.

I have wanted to adopt since I was an adolescent. I’m not sure why I was drawn to it so young. I don’t recall knowing anyone who was adopted (that I know of anyway). I also knew I wanted an older child. Again, no idea why. The thing is I thought I would adopt a boy. We didn’t have any boys in my immediate family other than my dad. I thought I wanted the “boy” experience, whatever that was. The December before I met Hope, I did my vision board; I included a picture of a child’s bedroom and a faceless child. The images I selected clearly reflected “girlie” vibes. I remember thinking it was so different than what was supposed to be on the board. I was supposed to be a boy mom. Ha! The universe said, nah, at least not right now.

The fact that my current Beau is also an adoptee, also tends to keep the topic top of mind because he’s slowly telling me his story. From his perspective, it’s a doozy. And that’s real. I can see the hurt, trauma, desire, sadness, and more. My heart breaks. I can also see adoptive parents who probably did the best they could with what they had. That doesn’t excuse whatever was done or wasn’t done, but entering my own 8th young year of parenting I sometimes get feeling like every choice available is problematic for any of a zillion reasons and just trying your best to choose the one that will be the least problematic.

The truth is that parenting is probably one of the most difficult jobs anyone can possibly take on. It’s rough out here in these parenting streets, and no one gets out unscathed. And parenting books suck, and frankly so do a lot of online parenting groups, IMHO.

And adoptive parenting is its own beast. You come in thinking you just want to be a regular-degular, but somehow super duper parent, ie, neurotypical kid, same race, kinda looks like me, no trauma, no drama, super smart, gifted, talented, etc. etc. You quickly realize that even if those existed, you weren’t on that track. Precious little is discussed about some of the special needs and challenges. I think a lot of APs just think I want a child and then things will be…just normal, life will just begin and continue.

It does and it doesn’t, and maybe you low key actually were on that track after all.

My and Hope’s story started with a hospital stay and me working on my dissertation. It was rocky. The tears, especially for me, seemed endless. My relationships were strained; I felt alone; Hope couldn’t cope with much of anything because moving in was just overwhelming. We were a bit of a mess if you go back to that first year of posts.

But we got through it somehow and continue to thrive in spit of it all.

We continue to grow together and figure it out. I’m not the best parent, my flaws are many. But I have done my best to date, and Hope continues to have a safe place to grow, explore, and transition into adulthood. And ultimately providing that emotional place is the core of my job. So, I’m succeeding.

I’m not even sure what my point is with this stream of consciousness rambling post. This season is just triggering a lot of great memories about the genesis of my little family.

Anyhoo, have a marvelous Sunday.


My Issues

When I became a mom, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy job. Parenting is hard. I did think that it would become easier at some point.

Let’s just say, some point has not yet arrived.

Parenting Hope at 20 is as challenging as parenting Hope at 12; the challenge is just different. She had a taste of freedom when she was away at school, and while I don’t have a lot of rules, the ones I do have I’m pretty serious about. We bump heads occasionally over it, but I’m the mom and the mortgage payer–I make the rules.

My fears for my daughter are different in some ways. Good decision-making has been a struggle for Hope this last year, and unfortunately she has felt the heavy gravity of some of her poor decisions. It’s been hard to watch, and it’s also hard to trust her in some areas as a result. I’ve learned that she doesn’t really get that trust is hard earned and easily lost. My trust issues when it comes to Hope feel so trauma based. I sometimes even feel panicky when I think about what has lead to my distrust. It doesn’t feel good.

And low key, I sometimes feel like, does my kid have any idea how her decisions, actions, choices affect anyone else besides her? There’s almost always a financial cost. There is the emotional cost and when she pays the consequences, sometimes I’m caught up in that foolishness as well. So, yes, there is a deeply selfish component that drives me nuts too.

And then there’s just decisions that leave me perplexed and wondering what’s going to happen next. For example, Hope has been working for about 3 weeks. She’s called out twice. The first time she said she didn’t feel well–she didn’t seem sick. Today, she didn’t have a reason. As a manager, I would be concerned that she wasn’t the best hire and that maybe she isn’t terribly responsible. A third call-out would very likely result in a termination–there are just too many people in need of a job for any company to deal with a lackadaisical work ethic. I just don’t get it.

When I discovered she wasn’t going to work today, I silently fumed. I’ve been telling myself to chill out because after a year of doing so little that it would take a while for her to find her footing. When she worked last year, she was a dedicated, reliable and a strong team player. Now, not so much. And, right or wrong, it’s driving me absolutely nuts.

I take a lot of pride in my work ethic. I routinely pull 50+ hour weeks; I cram as much as I can into my work day. I’m super productive. I have learned this year that my anxiety drives a lot of this behavior, which isn’t good, but somehow I make it work. Motherhood changed my work and career priorities a lot; it was wonderful to pull back and find self-worth in mothering. These last couple of years, I’ve been able to dive back into work, and I hopefully set an example for discipline and productivity.

Yeah…that doesn’t seem to be the case though, and honestly I seethe because of it. I want Hope to be successful at whatever it is she is going to do. For me success is 80% hard work and 20% luck. I’m not sure what equation Hope uses in terms of success or even if she’s thought that far. I just know that her approach, such that it is because I do not think it is planned or thought out, is just to float.

This is driving me nuts and I’m fully aware that ultimately it’s my issue. Hope is going to do what she’s going to do–or not.

As calmly as I could, I told Hope about the possibility of self-sabotage, and I got a blank stare. I told her the truth that I was disappointed to see her calling out twice in as many weeks for no clear reason. I also told her that how I feel about how she handles her employment is my issue and I’ll have to work on it, but it really is triggering me (that’s an understatement–I’m really emotional about it). I also told her I loved her. I also retired to my room because my own emotions–however illegitimate they might be–are real and I was really struggling with how to engage in healthy ways.

The idea that I need to withdraw because I know I can’t manage my emotions seemed to get to her. It doesn’t change her behavior though, so I’m still in my room with Yappy, noshing on cookies and writing about my parenting emotional hangups.

I know that Hope will get it together one day, not today but one day. I know that; I believe that. For now, I just need to get a handle on my expectations, my emotions and my own dreams for Hope. She’s got to find her own way, in her own time. I desperately want so much for her and I’ve done as much as I can to smooth a path for her, and that’s it. It is up to her.

So these feelings and all that underpin them are my issues. I’ve got a lot of stuff to talk to my therapist about because I can’t stand feeling this stuff. It’s not healthy, and it’s probably not fair.

Parenting is hard.


Being Selfish is a Human Right

I just came across an article by Angela Tucker in which she responds to the question about whether adopted persons are selfish for searching for their birth family.

Such an absurd question, amirite?

Why on earth would it be considered selfish to wonder about your origins, your people, your place in the universe? I mean, entire industries have emerged to capitalize on the fundamental notion that we all want to know where we came from. You can seriously go to Target right now and pick up any number of tests for less than $100 to satiate your desire to find out more about your genetic information and its connection to others.

And that industry sprung up thanks to the increasing interest in genealogy by private hobbyists and professional searchers.

Most of us are just curious and, for fun, we can go out and satiate that curiosity.

A couple of years ago my sister bought my parents a couple of Ancestry DNA kits for their anniversary. It was a fun and interesting thing to do. My mom and a few extended family members have turned into genealogy hobbyists during their retirement years. Well, a few months later the DNA turned up some close relatives we suspected existed but never really knew about. We now have this amazing relationship with my cousins, who bore a striking resemblance to our family and shared interests that seemed unexplainable by anything other than genetics.

My mother, Grammy, is the only surviving member of her immediate, nuclear family, and finding these relatives has meant the world to her. It gave her a connection she never imagined she’d experience. For my cousins, it was a missing puzzle piece that was sought for more than 50 years.

That doesn’t mean that the revelation wasn’t without its complications. Not everyone in the concentric circles of our family was thrilled or accepting. Not everything has been easy. There’s a lot of emotion. There’s a lot of hurt. There’s a patient hope for future acceptance. There are times when it feels like time for full resolution is running out.

There are prayers.

There are occasional wails.

There are tears, both happy and sad.

It’s complicated.

But gosh knowing has been worth it.

I gave Hope the option last year of taking a test.  I thought she was old enough to understand the ramifications of sending your genetic information to a 3rd party that profits from having such sensitive information (something all of us should think more seriously about). We talked about the possibility of finding her surviving parent as well as connecting with half-siblings that I know exist and are in adoptive families as well. We talked about what that meant for her, how she felt about it.

My own curiosity led to my own search for her parent a few years ago. It was consuming for a while; then one day I found her. I told Hope about it since she had expressed an interest in searching. I have the information, and I update it regularly. Hope has never asked for the info or to reach out. I’ve promised to support her no matter her decision. I believe one day she will broach the issue again, with or without me. I could never deny her the information or my support in searching and wanting to see if a relationship was possible.

Yes, it might be complicated.

Yes, it might not go well.

Yes, it will be hella emotional.

Yes, it might be messy.

Yes, it could end horribly.

Yes, it could also be the beginning.

I’ve committed to be Hope’s ride or die. I’m good. I’m confident in my relationship with her. I believe there is plenty of good room for people who love Hope. I believe that she needs me to just hold her hand sometimes and listen.

I’m emotionally well enough to not think this has anything to do with me, but everything to do with Hope finding her missing pieces.  I am her ally, and allies have to know their place—supportive of promoting agency, recognition that it’s not about us, and advocating for full personhood for our peeps.

So, yeah, she can be selfish. In fact, I encourage Hope to be selfish—as if that’s inherently a bad thing, it’s not—in searching for her missing pieces. I shouldn’t be a consideration. I want her to bloom into pursuing her needs and dreams, and if that includes searching or choosing not to search—frankly that’s Hope’s business.

My business is working through my own ish so that she isn’t negatively affected by it. My business is supporting my girl.

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with some aspects of selfishness. Selfishness can be healthy and self-preserving. I don’t believe that searching for the missing pieces of your identity is selfish. I think it is a human right to want to know. I think it’s a human right to pursue this knowledge. So if that’s selfish…that’s ok with me and I think it should be ok with you too.

So, yeah, be selfish. It’s all good.


More Thoughts for Newbies

Recently I stumbled over a new show Mahogany Momology, a podcast about Black motherhood!

Awww Yeah. I’m down for that.

AND these sistas had already dedicated an episode to adoption.

Super yay! New fan for sure!

MObama

via Giphy

I settled onto my elliptical this morning and listened. The show has a cool vibe. This episode on adoption left me with a lot of feels. Like, a lot of feels about all kinds of adoption stuff.

MObama

Via Giphy

I’m totally looking forward to hearing more from the show, but I found myself thinking that maybe there’s some more I could add to my own post from May, Thoughts on Being a Newbie  based on the narrative I heard and didn’t hear on the show.  Now of course, one show can’t be everything to everyone, so I respect that the episode focused on one family’s adoption story. So…yeah.

MObama

Via Giphy

Again, I’m hardly a sage, so take all of this for what it’s worth! Here’s my latest two cents to add to your considerations on the newbie experience.

  • When choosing an agency, be sure that they engage in ethical adoption practices—this is for all kinds of adoption. Research them, feel good about how they treat you, how they view the child and how they view and treat that child’s family of origin. If this feels more transactional than family building, run, don’t walk to the next agency to check them out.

Another thing to consider is whether that agency is religiously affiliated and how that shapes they way they treat members of the adoption triad. Does the agency only work with couples? Do the couples have to be straight? Do the folks like me, single parenting by choice, also have to be straight? Is there a religious litmus test as a part of the process? How do they advocate for LGBT+ older kids who need homes who are invariably harder to place (because folks don’t want to be bothered with “other”)?

What about how much time do they give birth families to make their decisions about placement? Do they apply any pressure to birth families to decide early? How are birth families treated immediately following the birth? Is there different pricing fees for children of color? Why and how do you feel about that? How are families of color treated? How are children of color treated? Do they respect the dignity of children in need of homes?

Also, does the agency offer pre/post-adoption support? Are there opportunities for counseling referrals? Support groups? Help hotlines?

Choosing an agency is one of the most important decisions that you will make in this process. Ask lots of questions and try to get as close to right as you can.

  • Learn about interstate adoption before you get deep in the process. The rules are different state by state. The delays in placement and ability to travel with a child immediately after placement are governed by these rules, or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). These compacts also dictate the relationships between states when you adopt from foster care. For example, my daughter’s home state reimburses our state for her Medicaid coverage. We never saw a break in coverage, and it’s a financial negotiation between the states. She could not move from her state to mine until that and other things were all ironed out. Our paperwork was submitted right before Christmas, so things were delayed a few weeks; right after the new year, our ICPC went through and we could begin to plan for her permanent transition to my home. This step is really important so take some time to learn about it before you are waiting on it to happen.
  • Think long and hard about an open versus closed adoption and put the child at the center of that decision. You and your feelings really shouldn’t be the priority. There I said it. You will have big feelings, super big feelings. HUGE feelings about this. Take some time to work through that and figure out what’s best for your child. Same advice goes for the birth family. Everyone needs to be on the same page here! Open adoption can look a million different ways, but please know that it is not simply a legal thing pertaining to original birth records, names, etc. I consider that a separate issue actually and actually mention it in my original newbies post.

The open vs. close question is about whether you are open to and willing to facilitate a relationship between your child and their biological family. There’s a lot of research on this (most of it pro-open), go Google it. Do your due diligence, not just for your comfort but for your child’s well-being.

Sure, it can be messy sometimes, negotiating boundaries, who gets called what, the various stages your child will experience as they grow in these relationships. I wrote about my own experience parenting Hope through an open adoption recently in The Gap. It has been challenging for numerous reasons, but I know having an open adoption is the right thing for us. We have access to medical history, which this year became exceptionally helpful, there has been reconnections that were important. Even in the challenging part, it has been an important way of Hope to have agency over how she wants to be in reunion.

I worry when the default decision is a closed adoption. There are numerous reasons for that choice, though, including safety and security of the child. But if you’ve chosen this path, be sure to center the decision on the child, not just what will be “easier” for you. It’s not about you.

  • Spend some time really learning about trauma and attachment. A lot of domestic infant adoptive parents don’t think this is an issue for their kiddos. It may not always be, but I listen to a LOT of adoptees who often talk about that missing piece. They know things even when we think they (infants) don’t. Learn about trauma, learn about attachment. Learn what kinds of things you should be doing to facilitate attachment, learn that it might not look like what you think it ought to. There are lots of great resources out there on these topics. Check out The Primal Wound and Kathryn Purvis’ work on attachment and connected parentin Don’t assume that because your baby was placed with you a few days after birth that their mother’s essence isn’t imprinted in their senses. Come one, we learn about imprinting in nature in grade school; this shouldn’t be a foreign concept. Learn about this stuff and marinate on it. You may find down the road that it explains a lot that you just couldn’t figure out.

Hope wants me to add that that the wound can heal or at least find some resolution. It doesn’t have to remain painful and that every case is unique. She also notes that if you’re honest every step of the way with your kids that it makes it easier for everyone. #sheswise #thatsmykiddo

  • Think about how you will talk about adoption (and foster care) with your child. I’ve made it a point to have an open policy on all topics in our home (which has led to some stunningly embarrassing moments, but seriously impactful moments). I want Hope to feel comfortable talking about her parents, her life experience before me, her feelings about her current relationship with her biological family, everything. If she had been an infant, I hope that I would have wanted to talk about her origin story, that adoption wouldn’t be a secret, that we would still have the open policy. I struggle when I hear about parents whose kids are beyond infant age, and they haven’t told them they were adopted. Um, what are you waiting for? #tryingnottojudge #effit #imjudging #sorrynotsorry Think about how you will share your child’s story with them and when (as early as possible).

So, I enjoyed the new podcast and I’m looking forward to checking out the previous episodes while Hope and I are on vacation this week! In the meantime, what other kinds of things do *you* think newbies should consider, know, learn? Share below and keep the discussion going!


Thoughts on Searching

My family has long been interested in genealogy searches. Several members, including my mother, enjoy trying to find members of the extended family tree, trying to trace our lineage as far back as they can. This can be challenging given that African Americans were counted as property for so long in the US. Despite this reality, it remains an enjoyable exercise in unearthing our history.

More recently, my immediate family has gotten into the DNA testing game. My parents took the test and found all kinds of connections. Most stunningly, the test revealed the existence of a close relative none of us knew about.

We are all in the process of learning about each other, bonding and attaching, figuring out how we feel about all this new found information. The discovery has prompted a rush of emotions that can hardly be articulated as anything but overwhelming.

I had the pleasure of meeting my relative this weekend; at one point in the conversation I asked him what he thought about all of *this,* this being the discovery, how it fit into his life, how he’s managing all of this new information.

He acknowledged that it was overwhelming, but that he’d been wondering and curious for so many years. He had kind of resolved to himself that some questions would never been answered, but to have them answered and to experience acceptance was more than he could have imagined. It was all still settling in.

This wasn’t an adoption story, but I thought a lot about adoptees as he was talking to me. I like to consider myself an advocate of the adoptee voice, but honestly at that moment, that voice and the needs that come with it resonated so deeply within me.

People want to know who they are and where they come from. There’s a desire to connect somewhere, biologically. There’s a need to understand their origin, their history. This is why they search. They have questions, more questions than I could ever dream of.

I listened as my new family talked about wondering who they looked like, who their people were, did they have mannerisms like anyone related to them.

I watched him and marveled at how much he looked like us; I cried when he spoke because it was like listening to another close family member—nearly tonally identical. The mannerisms were so similar too, and yet, he never knew any of us.

It’s more than nurture; it’s nature, and it’s undeniable.

As I tried desperately to stop staring and focus on listening to my new extended family, I thought of all of the adoptees whom I have listened to, including my beautiful daughter Hope. We’ll be traveling to see her side of our family in a few weeks. I was reminded how important those connections were. I imagined how she must have felt when it seemed that she would never have contact with them again. I smiled when I think about how I look at her face and see her birth family. I watch her grow and how her body shape is morphing to look like her aunts. I see her genes coursing through her.

The search for birth families must be difficult. The call to search, the decision to heed the call, the desire and wonder to know what you’ll find at the end of the search and how it will make you feel. It must be so powerful, scary, joyous, heartbreaking and all consuming.

I know that sometimes it’s something feared by adoptive parents, but it shouldn’t be feared at all. We have puzzle pieces that we need to gather. This experience, which is still developing, has provided me with a greater sensitivity to understanding an adoptee’s compelling need to know and to seek out their families of origin.

I feel better about my own search for Hope’s birth mother last year. I told Hope I’d found her; she said she didn’t want the information. She might one day and I’ll be ready to give it to her. Supporting her desire to know is important, and it’s no threat to me and my relationship with my daughter. I knew it was important before, but now sitting in the midst of a different, yet similar situation has me doubling down on the importance of supporting adoptee searches for birth families.

Certainly, adoptees don’t need me wandering in their space and co-signing on their voice, but I hope that other adoptive parents understand and are more supportive of their sons and daughters who choose to seek out their people.

The siren of biology does matter, and our hearts must be big enough to help our families answer if we can.

*Featured Image: giphy.com

When Racism, Douchery and Adoption Collide

So this weekend known d-bag Iowa Congressman Steve King said this:

This dude. Usually he’s vomiting some sort of racist foolishness, but then he said this:

“It’s the culture, not the blood. If you could go anywhere in the world and adopt these little babies and put them into households that were already assimilated into America, those babies will grow up as American as any other baby.”

Sigh. Ok, let’s break this all the way down: Rep. King actually advocated international adoption for the purposes of advancing American culture against “somebody else’s babies.” Based on his frequent commentary those “somebody” folks are people of color primarily from Africa and the Middle East who are not Christian.

I got to say, that while I find 99.9999999998% of what comes out of this man’s mouth and typing fingers abhorrent; I appreciate his honesty. Lots of racists hide. They used to hide behind hoods. Today they hide behind systemically crushing policies and keyboards. With Rep. King, we can watch him plant his flag over and over again. We can see that thing and name that thing. And as someone who fights oppression for a living, I prefer tangling with devils I can see.

There is so much to unpack from his commentary, but let me focus on these facts:

  • Rep. King clearly doesn’t understand that adoption is supposed to be child-focused not civilization building.
  • He believes that we should burden our adopted children with *saving* American culture rather than focusing on ensuring they have access to safe, loving homes.
  • King doesn’t have any care for the first parents of the children he thinks should save American civilization.
  • King also doesn’t get that many of those “somebody” families are refugees in Western Europe who would rather not have to flee their countries of origin with nothing but the clothes on their back or to be treated like crap in the places where they seek asylum. They’d also like to raise their own children.
  • There is no appreciation that international adoption is rife with ethical challenges, not the least of which is that the actual number of orphans that need families internationally is far lower than what is often reported.
  • There is an unspoken, yet clearly inferred, charge that brown and black children need to be adopted by white folks so that they can be properly raised assimilated into “western civilization.”
  • Rep. King doesn’t see the value of black and brown lives here or globally; our melanin is blamed for the threatened failure of civilizations.

Oh, I could spend some time breaking Rep. King’s foolery all the way down, but I’m loathe to give this racist more airtime. It’s tough enough to dig through this guy’s public statements about race, poverty, and civics and not walk away wanting to douse yourself in Purell. Now he’s added this idea that Americans should be internationally adopting black and brown children from cultures different than ours in order to indoctrinate them. Sigh.

Just imagine for a minute how he views those of us who are not white and born here in the states.


By Any Other Name

I had chosen names for the children I would never give birth to. I only chose what would be first or middle names so that they could be adapted to names desired by my would be husband/life partner.

Those names were so important to me; each had special meaning. Each were strong names on which my children could scaffold their identities.

And then, one day, the realization set in that I would not get to use any of those names for biological children.

Even now, writing this, the sting of quiet tears fill my eyes.

And then Hope came along.

Hope got her pseudonym from being my “Hope Kid.” When I started the blog, I had just received her profile. I remember sitting in my office, opening the email, reading the little bit of information attached and then opening the attachment to see her picture.

I immediately fell in love with her.

In my heart I felt like she was my daughter. I just knew, which was ridiculous because she was the first profile I received having just started the national search with my agency the week before.

I also knew that there were many steps to be made before she and I might be matched. I dubbed her my “Hope Kid.”

After we were matched, I started just calling her Hope in this space.

It’s turned out to be a good strong pseudonym for her. She and I are both so hopeful.

At 12, I never once thought about changing her name. Her in real life (IRL) name is unusual and lovely.

A few folks asked if I considered changing her first name.

dancing

No. I mean, she was 12 and It. Is. Her. Name. And well, Hope had lost everything else, everything, why on earth would I take her name from her too?

And she’s feisty, why on earth would I want to start our life with a fight about changing her name?

As we neared the date of our finalization, I did have to make a decision about her last name.

Sounds like a no brainer, right?

I mean, she would just drop her given name and take my name.

No.

It was her given name. It was hers. It was given to her by her parents, who loved her even if they didn’t always love themselves.

I thought about all those adoptees who talked about their birth names and the surnames of their birth family.  How hard it was to find people when names changed. How challenging taking on a new identity could be.

Because Hope is an older adoptee, I had the luxury of having a real conversation with her about her name. I’d like to think that even if she had been younger, I might have come to the same conclusion because it works for us.

Hope had just assumed that I would make her change her name. She understood why I might do that. She has resolved that it was just the way of the world, or rather the way of her world. In Hope’s world, she rarely got to make decisions, she lost lots of things and well, she supposed she was just happy to be getting a forever family.

I asked her what she thought about a third option.

I asked her what she thought about just adding my last name to her existing name.

The first thing she did was write it all out and count the letters.

There were a total of 29 letters in this proposed name. Four names, two of them last names, no hyphens and 29 letters.

She asked if the name would fit on forms.

So, I cruised the internet and found a few forms that we would have to eventually fill out and printed them and let her practice filling them out.

It worked.

I asked her if taking my name would be hard for her; she said maybe. I told her that she could drop it she wanted, and just sign things with her birth name. The four-name thing would just be her “government name.” I explained the times when she would need to use it.

I asked her to think about it.

When I told folks that this third option was on the table…well, there were so many questions. So many.

Why couldn’t I just change it? Why didn’t I want her to be fully a part of the family? Wouldn’t this be confusing for her? How would this help her move on?

There was a lot of criticism.

I stayed focused on me and Hope during the whirlwind.

In the end, extending her name was our choice.

During our Facetime finalization, Hope exclaimed to the judge that her new name was 29 letters.

She continued to use her birth name for a while, and then one day, she didn’t.

I’m not sure exactly when she started using both last names, but I know that now she wouldn’t dare sign her name without both.

When her birth family found us, they were surprised that I didn’t drop their name. I think it brokered some trust with them; I had no intention of erasing her identity.

Again, I have the luxury of having an older child who is capable of telling me her feelings. I know that even during the worst of times she endured, she would leave me in a flash if she had the chance to be parented by her birth parents again.

I’m hardly a saint and I’m judgmental as hell, but I’ve also had the luxury of having my birth family my whole life. I get it and I don’t blame her at all. If I had known them before, and known what I know now, I would’ve been rooting for them.

But our paths were different, and all I can do now is honor her family by supporting her in keeping the names she was given.

Our family is stronger for it.

And what have I really learned from this part of our journey?

I learned that I’m glad that we didn’t have to make a choice based on her safety and a desire not to be found. I think this would have been so much more difficult for her if that was necessary. For her to have to change her name, her identity, to remain safe, is a whole other level of trauma. We are fortunate that we were not faced with that situation.

I learned that even though I have replaced Hope’s birth parents in parenting her, I am additive in her life. For Hope, I didn’t just replace them. I am her mother, without question, but I am her second mother. I can never replace Hope’s birth parents; I can’t erase them. Even with a name change, that history, however brief, is still a real part of her life.

I learned that Hope’s name is her name. I am honored that my name has become a part of her name and a part of her story, but her story didn’t start with me. It won’t end with me either.

I imagine that her name will change again sometime in this lifetime.

And again, it will be Hope’s choice to shape her identity.

I learned that there are various ways to integrate a child into your family.

I learned that a last name can be more than enough of a connection to a new family.

I realized just how much power adoptive parents have…to change a child’s whole name…or just to get to name a child…it is a privilege that should be acknowledged as such.

I learned that the sting of not being able to have biological children rears its head more often than I care to admit. A discussion about changing a child’s name precipitates asking what might you change it to? And then your list of dream names springs to mind…and it drags that little bee sting with it.

I learned to treasure my own name even more. I love thinking about the origins of my name and the story my parents tell me about naming me.

I don’t know that at this point in my life I will change my name even if I get married. I’ve been with this name a mighty long time.

I do know that I’ll still be ABM whatever name I chose, and that Hope will always be my Hope and joy, no matter what her name evolves into during the course of her life.

 


Add Water and Stir’s Latest

I’ve been talking about my journey with Hope for 2 years, but no one had ever heard her voice until now!

I’m so absurdly proud of my daughter and this was such a fun experience for us. I hope you enjoy it as we observe National Adoption Awareness Month!

AWAS 033: Hope Shares Her Script – http://www.addwaterandstirpodcast.com/awas-033-hope-shares-her-script/

#flipthescript


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