Tag Archives: Adoption Stories

Curious about Her

Earlier this year, Hope asked me how I would feel about her trying to find her birth mother. I immediately replied that I would help her any way I could and that if a healthy relationship was possible I would help facilitate it.

Then she never brought it up again.

I know it’s still in there somewhere. Hope has strong feelings about her mother; I’ll say they are complicated and leave it at that.

Having been found by her paternal extended family just after finalizing our adoption was emotionally challenging for both of us. It brought up a lot of resentment, a lot of grief, but also a lot of love and connectivity. Frankly, it remains a challenging relationship with our extended family, but families are complicated, right?

Right.

So Hope’s mom…I’ve always been curious. Not much is known about her. I know certain things about her and I know what Hope thinks she remembers, but was more likely told about her mother since they were separated at such a very young age. No one has pictures of her; I asked.

A few times I broached the subject with Hope about wanting to just know where she was, and Hope said no. She seemed intent on closing this door.

Given all that I’ve learned over the last few years, listening to adoptees, I figured it would come back around, probably more than a couple of times.  So, when she asked me about how I would feel about finding her; I wasn’t surprised by the inquiry. Actually I felt prepared for it.

Now that I look back on it and our growth through these last few months, I suspect that she was might have been curious  about*my* feelings on finding her mother than on her desire to actually find her mother.

But, even the most remote interest gave me permission to pull out my keyboard and start searching.

I had her mother’s name and not much else.

About two months ago, I thought I found her on Facebook. Some of the sketchy details matched up; not everything, but really close. I could not stop looking at her picture. I searched it for Hope’s features, her skin tone. I wondered what my daughter looked like as a newborn; did she look like this woman?

I was consumed by this profile for a good week or so, and then one day I convinced myself that this was not Hope’s mother.

I was disappointed.

I wondered why was I looking, would it be better if I waited for Hope to be ready? Clearly, this was more about my curiosity at this point than hers. What would I do if I actually found her? I wondered if she even wanted to be found. Most of all, having realized that I didn’t find her, I felt a little twinge of pain in thinking she was lost to me, to us, to Hope. I wondered what that twinge of discomfort felt and how exponentially magnified it must feel for my daughter…to be lost again.

I walked away from the search that day.

A few weeks later, one Sunday morning, while sipping coffee in my PJs and watching Law and Order, I found myself searching again.

I can only explain it as a deep, bottomless curiosity about my daughter’s background. I wanted to know her full story; I love her and want to know everything about her. I want to know or at least see the person who birthed her. I didn’t know what I would do if and when I found her, but I just wanted this information so badly. I’d like to say I wanted to have it for when Hope was ready and I could just give it to her, the truth would be that I desperately wanted to know for myself.  Who is Hope’s birth mother? What does that biological link look like?

I don’t know if it’s my own infertility grief or that I’m nosey, or if knowing would somehow bring me even closer to Hope. I still had no plan for what I would do with the information after finding it. Who would I tell? What would I tell Hope? Who would support me in this crazy wild goose chase?

I never doubted that searching was the right decision; I just couldn’t comprehend what I would do with information about Hope’s mother when I found it.

Well, thanks to the power of the internet, a big hint on a search string and $35 I found her in short order from the comfort of my couch that Sunday morning. It took me longer to get out my credit card and decide whether making the information purchase was the right thing to do than the actual search for the info.

Before I knew it, I had her address, her phone number, and a background check. Two minutes later I was looking at her face on Facebook.

When I saw this woman, I knew right away, this was Hope’s birth mother. I saw that as much as my daughter looked like her paternal family, she bears a striking resemblance to her birth mother: the shape of her face, her eyes, her hair, her long limbs. It was meaningful to see the woman who gave her life because so many people comment that Hope looks like me and I think that it’s just not true. Putting me side by side her birth mother and the blood relationship is apparent.

I read the report over and over, committing some of it to memory. I saved it to the external hard drive. I printed out a copy and put it in my file box.

And then I went back to Facebook stalking her. There wasn’t much to see, with us not being friends. I saw a few pictures, a few pictures of friends and relatives.  I would check ever so often in hopes that she was one of those folks who changed their profile picture frequently. She’s not.

I began talking myself into reaching out to her, but what on earth would I say? Was that the right thing? Who was I reaching for—me and my own curiosity? Or Hope? Was this contact in our immediate best interest? What if the contact was completely rejected? What if the contact prompted a lot of expectations?

The what ifs are endless.

I eventually discussed it with my therapist. She asked a lot of questions, a lot, over a couple of sessions. She convinced me to put the brakes on things. She also asked me to broach the subject with Hope and AbsurdlyHotTherapist.

I sat with it for a couple of weeks, worried about Hope’s reaction.

During a game of 20 questions I asked Hope how she would feel if I found her birth mother. She grimaced, and said very little. I let it go for a couple of weeks. I circled back around and reminded her of our conversations about finding her and how she reacted to the possibility of finding her. I told her I had found her, that I knew where she was and knew how to contact her. Hope thought quietly and said, “That’s ok, I don’t want to.”

And so, I dropped it. The file is away on the hard drive and the papers are in the box. I sense that we’ll revisit it when she’s ready. I’ll be with her every step of the way.

I would be lying if I didn’t say I thought of her birth mother often. I still have all of these questions. I still want to know if there are baby pictures, what Hope was like as an infant. I have a deep desire for answers about our daughter’s life. And I want to know about this woman who gave Hope life. I just want to know more about her, since she’s just such a mystery to me and to Hope.

But that’s all for another day. I may find out, I may never know. I’m not even sure I’m happy I found her since it feels like she’s kind of off limits. She’s like money burning a hole in my pocket, I want to spend by asking a million questions. But it really…all this curiosity is for another day.

I know that, for now, the status quo is what Hope needs to feel safe and secure. I don’t know what is behind her birth mother’s door, and I have to trust that Hope’s memories and stories are what they are. More than anything I want to support my daughter and her continued healing and development, and right now, it seems that she wants me and just me.

So, curiosity won’t be killing me this time.


Positive Pinteresting

For years I avoided Pinterest like the plague. Seriously, did I need another social media account that somehow melded recipes, decorating and Christmas shopping?  Really?

I convinced myself I didn’t.

Nope, I don’t need no Pinterest.

And then I became a mom…and the next thing you know at 11:45pm on a Wednesday I’m pinning like 25 things to various boards.

Of course there’s the occasional recipe for mini cinnabons made in a muffin tin.

Seriously, I can go down the rabbit hole and waste spend a lot of time on Pinterest searching all kinds of stuff.

To look at my boards these days is to watch me search for ways to help turn Hope’s ship around.

There’s my private board on parenting traumatized adoptees and the board devoted to promoting executive function. There’s a board devoted to teen tips for time management—especially teens with ADHD.

There’s a board devoted to different philosophies on behavioral therapies, and one focusing on sheet music for sax and piano for Hope.

I collect pins related to self care and shopping too.

But of all of the random ish I pin, the thing that has consumed me as a part of the Year of the Try is my boards on healthy thinking and inspiration. It is within these boards that I’m building an arsenal of positive sayings, quotes, uplifting Ted talks, apps that promote mindfulness and sayings that go beyond positive and promote all out badassery.

I want Hope to be a positive badass.

Every few days, I print out a few sayings and I tape them to her bedroom door.

She gets surly sometimes about me doing this, but my goal is, in fact, to wallpaper her door with oodles of positivity and badassery. So even when I’m doing my damndest not to lecture her about being negative, she has to look at those quotes every single time she enters and leaves that room.

YES!

I’m hopeful that one day, she will embrace the messages and begin to believe in herself.


Wanting More

I had a shocking realization today. I have been aware of this for a very long time, but I guess it’s less realization and more ready to accept the reality.

Hope doesn’t desire more for her life.

She doesn’t really seem to dream about the future.

She doesn’t really dream of what she wants to be when she grows up.

She doesn’t really dream of a life beyond maybe a few weeks from now.

She wants to be in honors classes, but more because they are brag worthy, not because she believe she’s smart or that they are a gateway to college.

The only more she seems to want is new sneakers and maybe access to more social media.

She wants here and now.

She doesn’t see tomorrow. She can’t seem to think about tomorrow. She is not motivated by tomorrow.

She doesn’t want more for herself or her life.

I struggle with this. I am ambitious.  I am an overachiever. I am constantly thinking about my next move, my next project, where I want to be in a year, 5 years, 10 years, what do I want retirement to look like.

If I mention these things, Hope glazes over like she can’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Today, I was able to really admit to myself, that she doesn’t want more.  I don’t think she knows how to want more.

It feels like another loss I’ve uncovered. I’m angry that Hopes visions for a future or that her desire to live big and boldly seem to have been stunted or even crushed.

I hope it hasn’t. I don’t know if I can teach her to want more or even knowing what wanting more means.

Hope grasped how demanding high school will be this last week.  She is already engaging in some self-sabotaging behaviors and suggesting that honors classes are too much work.  They aren’t too hard; they are just a lot of work and she just doesn’t have as much time to binge watch the Disney Channel or lay in the floor babbling or whatever else she wants/needs to do. It’s a lot for her, not academically, but just emotionally I think.

But to take her out of these classes would be emotionally tough too. It is a badge of pride that she tells EVERYONE about.  “I’m in honors!” “I’m in honors!”

She wants to pride badge, but not the work. To her credit, what teenager wants to do much work? Well, some do, I guess; but mine does not.

Unlike debating adults, I can’t just rattle off a bunch of data and stats and articles about how the importance of education is, or how teachers, like everyone else, struggles with unconscious bias and it may affect her evaluations, or how her bad attitude will get her labeled or how pushing her in school means she might have a greater likelihood of going to college and getting a job that can turn into a career.

She ain’t trying to hear none of that…because she doesn’t even know if she wants that.

She doesn’t want more; I’m afraid that she doesn’t know how to want more.

I’m afraid that I can’t want more or possibly enough for her.  It’s like I can try my best to love her enough for the both of us, but I find my dreams for her constantly changing. I had all these multilayered goals, short term, intermediate goals, long-term goals. All the dreams are getting scrunched into short term goals. It’s becoming soul crushing to have long term goals, because we’re just trying to survive now.

But I can’t let the long term goals completely go. I know that I have to teach her to want for tomorrow, next week, next month and next year.  Occasionally she’ll talk about the future, but it is so very rare.

I suppose that the more positive way of looking at this is to see her living in the present, and that’s supposed to be a good thing, right?

But living in the present is supposed to be enjoyable, and it is not rooted in an inability to think about the future.

I don’t know what it will be able to make her want more. Time I suppose. I’m hopeful that she’ll continue to progress and to want things. I want so much for her, but more than anything I want her to want more out of life for herself.


Style Evolution

I am a girlie girl.  I wear mostly dresses or skirts. I love make up and usually put at least a little on every day.  I have a nice collection of jewelry, costume and good stuff.  I like shoes.  I doing my hair; well, it’s short again, but I enjoy the process of ensuring that it flatters my features.

I love being a woman, and I love being girlie.

Hope revels in being a bit of a tomboy.

I realized this weekend that the tomboy thing kinda bugs me.  Not really sure why, maybe because I was hoping she’d want to emulate me?  Not really, but maybe; I dunno.  I guess it could be that I never really thought about having a girl before Hope came along. Like many waiting parents, birth and adoptive, I just *knew* what I was going to get!!! A boy!! I swore I was going to adopt a boy.

And then Hope came into my life, and I couldn’t believe that I ever thought I would have had a boy.  I suppose it was then that the fantasy of manis and pedis with ruffles and sparkly feathers took up residence in my mind’s eye.

But alas, there are no ruffles and there are no sparkles to be seen anywhere.

I realized as we were school shopping during the last couple of weeks that Hope and I aren’t even in the same hemisphere when it comes to fashion.

Hope is still the round the way girl that I met almost two years ago. She can typically be found in jeans, a t-shirt, men’s high tops and not a stitch of jewelry, except maybe a name necklace Aunt M gave her earlier this summer.  She has a couple of dresses and reserves them for special occasions.  I finally convinced her to get a pair of black flats earlier this year. For the most part, she stays right in that fashion zone of non-fussy jeans and tees. I suppose I should be happier about that.  At least I’m not throwing clothes at her to put on, amirite?

Hope will be starting high school in a few weeks, and we’ve been out at the stores for two weekends in a row.  I find myself wandering through the stores, fantasizing about the cool outfits that Hope would look so fantastic in—seriously, she has a body most of us would kill for!  She hovers between a 4 and an 8 depending on the store.  The waist is a loose 4 while the hips are a comfy 6/8, so I occasionally have to have her jeans altered.  She’s tall and lanky with the body of a model and I desperately want to dress her.

And invariably, my daughter goes to items—colors, fabrics, prints, designs–that make me recoil. Like…Wha?  You actually want to wear that?  Outside?  With other people who can actually see you? With no invisibility cloak?????

I’ve taken to rarely offering much commentary because we quickly devolve into bickering.  Also, I found myself considering offering some comments this weekend based on whether or not the outfit would make her look cute for new potential crushes—and I totally put the brakes on that comment flying out of my mouth.  Since when did I, a devout feminista, have thoughts of encouraging my daughter to dress to make her look cute for the teen boys at her school.

What in the entire hell is happening to me??? Am I really that desperate for a style evolution that I will just throw my principles out the window for a cute pair of low heels and a flirty skirt?

(For the record, she would’ve really looked cute in the ensemble…if she had just given it a chance.)

Younger cousins counsel me that Hope is likely on the precipice of a style evolution, what with starting a new school and all. I hope so. But I also hope that we’ll be able to have fun shopping. Shopping is sooooo no fun.  I don’t want to earn mommy stripes by bickering about clothes or anxiously chewing on my cheek because I. CANNOT. BELIEVE. WHAT. SHE. IS PICKING. OUT.

And I suppose when I really think back I don’t have much room to talk.  I vaguely remember some jeans that had a bright aqua panel of lace down the sides of the legs and on the pockets. And, um, there *may* have been a matching jacket…I honestly can’t remember if I got the jacket or not.  My gentle sensibilities might’ve thought it was too much, what with all the neon aqua and all.

<eyeball roll at my own foolery>

In the midst of all of this, I think about how much things have changed in Hope’s “style” over 20 months.  At the time of placement there was a sweatshirt that I practically had to steal from her every few days to ensure that it was included in the laundry.  The outfits underneath were the always the same (jeans and tees), but everything was covered up by that sweatshirt.  She often wouldn’t even wear a coat; just the sweatshirt. It represented security and the past, things she knew, things she lost…that shirt meant and continues to mean a lot to her even though she hasn’t worn it in probably close to a year.

One day, I just looked up and noticed that she wasn’t wearing it anymore.  She didn’t need it anymore. She let it go. I don’t ever expect it to land in the Goodwill box, but she rarely even pulls it out anymore.

So, I guess Hope will continue to evolve, and I will have to just sit with it and be patient. And I suppose I should just accept it if she’s just a jeans and tee kinda  chick and never evolves past this style choice. Nothing wrong with that I guess. I do hope that at least we can switch to women’s fit t-shirts…they at least look nicer.

I’m going online now to browse something blingy, since I’m also guessing this leaves a little more budget for my own girlie purchases.


Seven

The number 7 is a special number.

Seven is a prime number, and prime numbers are just cool.

There are 7 deadly sins, 7 days of the week, 7 hills in Rome, 7 colors of the rainbow, and 7 major oceans.

There’s 7-11, where I get my Slurpees nearly every day of the summer

There were 7 loaves used by the Holy Homeboy to feed the multitudes; the Holy Homeboy is said to have said 7 things while on the cross.

In Judaism there are 7 days of morning. In Islam there are 7 heavens. In Egyptology 7 is symbolic for eternity.

Seven is considered a number of completion. Seven is a perfect number, a symbol of divine abundance, a symbol of totality.

The number 7 is a special number.

It is also Hope’s emotional age. And as a reminder, Hope’s chronological age is now 14.

I often have to remind myself that 7 is a cool number with so much symbolism. I sometimes find the symbolism in stark contrast to my reality.

The distance between Hope’s emotional age and her chronological age frustrates me. I willfully forget it exists sometimes despite the constant reminders. I have expectations of Hope’s behavior and emotional abilities sometimes that aren’t fair to her emotional age. I struggle with museum visits that take all day because she is catching up on experiences she should have been having 7-10 years ago, but didn’t. I lose patience with her inability to “act” 14 consistently.

Then there are times when I remember that I originally thought I would adopt a child much younger than Hope, a child who might be between the ages of 7 and 10, perhaps. The irony that I get the experience of parenting a child who’s emotional age is in that range is not lost on me. I’ve read stories to Hope at night. We’ve been to a petting zoo, to children museums, to touch ponds…all experiences I know she missed when she was that age. I know that I’m trying to create those experiences for her because she is entitled to them, and she actually needs them, even if her body is much older than her mind.

I have to force myself to remember that seven is a special age. One of my sisters thought she would marry Luke Skywalker when she turned 7; she also thought that she would get her driver’s license at 7. At 7, I remember having one of my very first crushes but when the boy congratulated me on the birth of my youngest sister with a kiss on the cheek, I hauled off and hit him. I was totally in love. My little cousin is currently 7 and she is a delight; the things she says and does are so funny. Seven is such a precious age.

But it doesn’t seem as precious when 7 is housed within 14. At times it actually feels like it is: numerically half the fun. How’s this for fun…I’m 42. I am 6 times Hope’s emotional age…instead of just 3 times Hope’s chronological age.

Yeah, Hope and I are just factors of 7.

I remember reading somewhere that because 7 is the number of completion, the number 8 represents new beginnings and renewal.

I need us to get to number 8. That is my new goal, to get to 8. I can’t even say I remember the substantive differences between 7 and 8, but I know it will be closer to 14. That’s important to me right now.

I know that one day, Hope will catch up. It takes time, which is the one thing I don’t feel like I have sometimes. But time is the one thing she needs to make it happen.

I need that new beginning for her. I need the renewal for me.

I am so over 7.


Merry Meltdown-a-mas

We are in the thick of the holiday season, and other than desiring to ability to see some family, sleep late and nap with Yappy, I really wish I could hit the fast forward button. Christmas shopping went out of control since I had to buy a new HVAC unit, and Hope wanted everyone in her new family to have some kind of present. I’m dangerously close to just writing checks and putting them in boring security mailing envelopes or finding myself as one of those sad people still shopping at the 24-hour Walgreen’s on Christmas Day.

Clearly the holidays bring about unique stressors like spending cash, spending a LOT of time with other people, year-end reflection and just stuff. Add to the mix a new daughter who misses some of her first family and is reflecting on the massive changes she’s endured during the last year, and it’s just one wave of a meltdown after another. This season seems to be tough for both of us.

Adding to our drama was the recent resurfacing of a legal case against someone who was really ishtty to Hope several years ago. Oh, yeah, that was fun and no doubt shaved a few more years off of my life. #sarcasm Nothing like waking up one afternoon and realizing that you might’ve seen your life on a previous episode of Law & Order.

We’ve been so stressed out that Hope, and I were about ready to claw each other’s eyes out ahead of family therapy last week. Fortunately, Absurdly Hot Therapist is really, really good at what he does. We were both able to acknowledge just how overwhelmed we are; how we aren’t as far along as we each thought and some stuff that we both need to do differently.

(As one of the few bright side giggles lately: Hope has recently become fixated on commenting on how big Absurdly Hot Therapist’s feet are. Every time, I can barely stifle my gleeful giggles, because you know, I’m totally inappropriate. He has big hands too….just sayin. #dontjudgeme)

Today marks the first day of winter break, which means two crazy glorious weeks together. Yay or nah?

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with Hope. Love it!

I’m getting really good at listing to “These are the Days of Our Lives: Middle School Edition.” My patience is growing, though it still has a lot more to go. My ability to try to parse out adoption stuff from annoying teen stuff seems weaker than usual or maybe it’s just that they are overlapping and related. Technology and access to it continues to be a problem—trying to find balance in giving her sufficient access so that she learns how to use it appropriately, particularly is social settings still feels like a slow painful death to me. And feeling Hope’s resentment because Yappy loves me more (he does; it’s a fact) makes me sad, even if Yappy unwavering preference for me makes me love him even more.  Yep, it’s all good, even when it’s bad, I guess.

Hope has come so far this year. I mean we both reflect back on the drama of 11 months ago, and it’s shocking how much things have improved. Shocking. And yet we still struggle.

Life: It’s complicated.

So I’m hoping we can pull it together and keep it together enough to not have too many more meltdowns during the next couple of weeks. I am looking forward to Christmas festivities, new traditions and time with family and friends.

Merry Christmas folks!


Adoption…Pup Style

I am an animal lover. There have been few times in my life when I didn’t have an animal of some sort. I love them, madly. I love the unconditional affection that they give. I’m in desperate need for that kind of connection at the moment, so I recently started the process of looking for a new fur baby.

I’ve made a point to choose a pup from a shelter or rescue organization. I have narrowed down my search in terms of breed, size, personality, history of abuse, housebroken status, and location. I guess it’s like my own little matching tool.

And that’s when the parallel world of child and animal adoption began to collide, and well, make me feel all kinds of icky.

Sigh.

We found two pups that seemed to be good fits, but they were both adopted by others before we could make a real move.

I’m the hang up. Every time I read the requirements for adopting an animal from a local rescue organization I just have to close my web browser. The forms can be as long as 10 pages, ask for references, previous pet ownership and a bunch of other information. Most stunningly, they all expect to conduct at least one home visit.

Yeah, a home visit. 

You read that right.

Hope’s and my last home visit was about 5 months ago. We had a great, great, great social worker. She has been a dream, so supportive, encouraging and a great resource. That said, I was glad when she stopped visiting officially. Prepping for her visits was a bit stressful. Actually really stressful.

So, here I am again, looking at home visits…for a dog.

Can I just give you a copy of my home study? A letter from my social worker? How about my adoption decree? They let me have a kid and I can assure you they crawled right up the crack of my fanny to make sure I was good enough, so will you let me have a dog? Please?

I mean really. REALLY. This has me all in my feels.

sad

Oh and I asked one of the places about it. I did. The answer they gave me let me know that 1) This rescuer is kind hearted but a cuckoo, nutter full of foolishness and 2) they actually find Hope and future pup so equal that perhaps their adoption process wasn’t stringent enough.

Scratch that rescue group from the list. Whackadoos. Harrumph.

Do I really have to mimic a process that allowed me to have a daughter in order to get a pet? It feels really, really extra.

It’s extra for a couple of reasons I guess. First the adoption process, now looking back, was incredibly stressful. Laying your life bare, even when you have nothing to hide, is tough. It’s just hard to subject yourself to judgment and possible rejection. Actually, I am still emotionally drained from it; it’s like a happy ending to a really crazy drama. I didn’t realize how much I still needed to recover from the process until I initiated the “process” of looking for a new fur baby.

Second, the idea of mimicking the human adoption process in order to adopt an animal…Oy. I get it. I do on some weird level. But multiple home visits? That’s just so stunning and so very extra to me.

I need a dog. I will take care of a dog very well. But all of this is just very upsetting and just a little too reminiscent of the process I just completed to get a teenager.


My Voice on Adoption

I came to this journey with my own story, and Hope came with hers.  My story has some loss; her story has a lot of loss. I like to say we found each other.  We’re well suited as a mother-daughter pair.

I know my place as her adoptive mom.  I know what happened with her parents.  She needed a home, and I wanted a home.  I didn’t exactly pray for her, and I know that her family feels her loss.  I know that she deeply feels the loss of her family.  They have all told me, and I have listened.

I catch all the hell that spills out from that deep loss.  I regularly express some of my own emotion related to my loss and hers.

I love her so very much. I believe she loves me too.

I can honestly say that I don’t know anything about international or infant adoption.  Nothing.  I don’t know anything.  I can’t speak to it, and I won’t try to. Heck I’m not an adoption expert on anything but my and Hope’s adoption.

I know that there many, many children in the foster care system.  Sure we can have loads of conversations about how we could have/should have preserved families.  We can talk about how to better support families, women and children especially. We can talk at length about corruption in the adoption world.

And still there would be children needing permanent homes.  And I hope that there are families who have homes to share.

Adoption is a tragic, yet beautifully, complicated process.  It is imperfect.  It can be flawed. Its very need is predicated on individual and familial loss and disasters of all kinds. The process is populated with all kinds of folks.  And like any institution it can be mired in practices and policies that are baffling, disruptive and even unethical.

All of that is true. And yet, still there are children who need permanent homes, and good people who want to and can provide them.

I am glad that I chose this path; I knew early on that adoption would be a part of my journey.  I didn’t think it would quite be like this, but it is what it is. I love this daughter that I share with someone out there.  She is without question or hesitation the most amazing, challenging person in my life and our little family is the happiest, crappiest, best thing I’ve ever been a part of.

I am not naive that she will have her own voice, her own narrative and that it will be drastically different than my own.  It’s ok.  It’s hers, and this is mine.

I want children to have families.  I would love for children to stay with their own families, but I know that that is not always possible.  I am glad I have a home for Hope.  I am unapologetic in going through this process with her, with her becoming my daughter and me becoming her mom.

I love her more than anything. She has been a blessing to me.  I hope I have been good for her.

I would hope that there are other voices like mine who can embrace the various truths about adoption that exist.  I am unapologetic in promoting adoption, particularly of older children (because that’s what I know).  I hope that more people of color will consider adoption.  I hope that more families are preserved, and when that isn’t possible that families will be created for children who need them.

So, with that I am committed to acknowledging National Adoption Awareness Month and National Adoption Day this weekend.  Adoption has been a beautifully, complicated journey for me, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to create my family through this process.


Thoughts on Being an Ally to Adoptees

Occasionally I write about my work in diversity; it certainly informs some of the writing I do here about the cross points of diversity, race most specifically, and adoption. For the last few days I’ve been pondering the #flipthescript hashtag on Twitter and why it hasn’t shown up on my “tailored” trend feed as a “trending” hashtag. Certainly the content is there; the tweets from adoptees are deeply meaningful, sometimes provocative, and shouting the desire to be heard as loudly as the voices of adoptive parents.

And yet, it’s almost as though there is a dull pinging in the Twitterverse.

Now, I’m not really into tweeting. I’ve been working on getting into it; it just moves too fast for me, frankly. Gosh, Twitter makes me feel old.

There I said it.

shamehead

Anyhoo, maybe I’m missing the big trend? I’m just not seeing it; though I do still see folks tweeting about Apollo Nida and Phaedra Parks from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. (Disclosure: I tweeted about them last night too.)  There have been some great blog posts about the sensitivities around NAAM, so I don’t want to downplay those, but even those–like this post–have been largely written by adoptive parents.

So, in the midst of sifting through Twitter this afternoon I came across one of Angela Tucker’s tweets that made me really ponder.

Something about Angela’s tweet drew me back into my day job in diversity and who creates the narrative, keeps it going and has the power to change it.

National Adoption Awareness Month is really about adoptive parents, not adoptees.

Ouch right? No, really it’s true. And before you hit the x-box in the corner of your browser, stay with me for a minute.

In any social moment, there is a dominant group who gets to create the event, set the tone, invite attendees, host the party and send everyone home with the parting gifts of their—the hosts–liking. The assumption is that these folks care more than anyone else, and that they know best how to throw this party and what it should be about. They just know more.

This isn’t true of course, but when you are the dominant social group, the group with the power, it’s true because you say it’s true and because you act like it’s true. And as long as other voices are mute or silent or muted and silenced then who’s gonna check you boo?

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This is what the use of power and privilege looks like.

Ugh, yeah, yeah it does. I know we adoptive parents probably don’t want to hear that, and it’s hard to write it, but it is what it is. I recognize that my fellow adoptive parents want and strive to be good people and good parents. We love our kids and our grown kids so very much. But the nature of the relationship—parent/child—creates a power dynamic that is hard to shake even when the adoptee is waaaaay grown. The use of power and privilege, even blindly and unintentionally, can be and often is oppressive.

Oppression has many antidotes, but its healing treatment is most effective when dominant group allies pick up the issue and carry it alongside (don’t take over!) those who have been oppressed. Oh, the irony that the marginalized group must, in part, rely on the dominant group to carry the weight should not be lost on any of us; it’s aggravatingly pissy.

But let’s not kid ourselves, I’d still be drinking at the colored water fountain in my segregated school but for some White folks who stepped up and joined ranks in saying, NO, Jim Crow is not any kind of right. My LGBT friends and colleagues would continue to live in environments that crush their spirit back into a closet but for straight allies also saying NO, this mess ain’t right. As the narrative dominant group, we have got to use our power and voice to promote inclusion.  Giving voice to adoptees shouldn’t be threatening to feeling happy about having the families that have been created through this process. Inclusion of their voice sensitizes us and everyone not on this journey that it’s not a walk in the park for any of us.

Adoption is complicated. I still celebrate my kid this month, probably almost invisibly in my “real” life. I am delighted that I am a mom and that our adoption has afforded me the opportunity to step into this role. But I recognize that this path is different, that my Hope’s needs are at times very different, that her voice in this journey is different, that she has emotions and feelings about being my daughter that I will never quite understand, that some of these emotions—even though they have little to do with me—will hurt both of us on various levels, and that advocating for her means listening to her voice, even and especially when she is saying something I’m not sure I want to hear.

As her mom and her biggest ally, it isn’t enough that I go through this with her, that I have my own story and write about in this space, that I bear witness to her as she navigates and creates her story or that I honor her story alone. I have a responsibility in this thing to amplify her voice and the voice of adoptees like her. It’s sad that many of the stories I see crossing social media don’t really mention the world view of the adoptee because adoptive parents are throwing the Adoption Awareness party.  I don’t think it’s malicious, but I think it speaks to the blind pervasiveness of power and privilege in our culture.

So, my fellow adoptive parents, take a moment out to amplify the voices of the adoptee. Make sure they are heard in your circles. They have a voice, just it and turn it up. As the dominant voice in adoption (all the time, not just during NAAM), we should be active and activist allies for adoptees and ensure that they are as visible as they choose to be, as loud as they want to be, and always, always heard. That is our challenge as the folks with the power and the privilege positions in adoption.

Being a good ally doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate the creation or expansion of our families this month, but be sensitive that it isn’t a celebration for everyone. Look, listen and retweet their voices. #turndownforwhat #flipthescript


The Package

Since June, I’ve been wrestling with the emergence of Hope’s biological extended family finding us. The irony of their emergence is that I had initiated my own search of them a mere six weeks before. I was curious about them. Hope had memories, both good and bad about some of the folks in her family. I wanted to know about them; I wanted to know where to find them if Hope wanted to reach out to them. I wanted to have some control over when and how the connection was made. And then the first day of our celebratory vacation, I got the Facebook inbox message.

I remember immediately feeling threatened—What did they want? Even though we were “legal” would they try to take her from me? Would Hope choose them over me?  Would she run to them if she got pissed off at me? Was blood going to trump me? How did they find us? I had given Hope a pseudonym on social media and our privacy settings were pretty high.   I remember feeling so panicked and so very threatened. I didn’t want to lose the kid that I had just put on lock, so to speak.

It has taken some time to navigate advancements in this relationship. I insisted that they go through me for contact. I asked questions on her behalf. I sent pictures and very modest updates. I got royally frustrated, no pissed really, when it was clear that some family members had higher expectations about my engagement with them.  It has also been rough because people who have hurt her seem to have selective memory about their relationship with Hope.

Of course this has been emotional for my sweet girl too. The first few mementos they sent triggered anger, sorrow and so, so much grief. But this time has also represented so many breakthroughs. Hope is busy constructing an identity that includes two last names (She kept her birth surname and just added mine—it’s long, but it works!); she now has some items that are priceless to her; she has begun to make peace with a lot of her grief. We’ve developed a few new rituals to commemorate key dates in her life before me, thanks to the emergence of her family. It hasn’t been easy and Lord knows I’ve griped, but being found has not been a bad thing.  It’s been a hell of a challenge, but it is not a bad thing.

Recently, Hope’s paternal grandmother sent her a package. I’ve been on the road so much recently that I just picked it up this week. The package included some cards, poems, some of her granny’s arts and crafts (there’s an apron for the liquid dish detergent bottle <quizzical grin>), and most importantly, Hope’s father’s American flag.

I pre-open things, and even though I knew it was in the box it was a shock to see it, lovingly wrapped in plastic, preserved for when they found Hope. The cards were addressed to my daughter using her full name, her new name, my surname.

Seeing her name and the small simple thank you card they included for me changed everything.

They acknowledged that I was her mother. There is no threat; Hope just has a really big family. I cried more than Hope did.

Hope went through everything in the box; I continue to see her grow and thrive. I’m so proud of her. These developments are so important to her.

We’ll be integrating these arts and crafts into our home; they are special to both of us. (There are bar soap cozies too. I imagine that there’s a plastic slipcover somewhere to be seen in my future; my spidey sense tells me so.)

We will be moving to phone calls soon and a visit eventually; Hope’s family is a reasonable drive away. All in good time.

This journey continues to teach me so much.


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