Tag Archives: Adoptive Families

I Was Missed

I’m finally home. It took my mom and I planes, trains and automobiles to get home from Europe. Seriously, two days of travel, including a 9 hour plane ride that made Thursday feel like groundhog’s day.

Anyhoo, I’m home. Home with my kiddos—2 legs and 4 legs.

Hope has melted the ears off of my jet-lagged head. Nonstop. I’m almost dizzy with fatigue and this kid is telling me about the minutia of the last week…while coughing like she’s about to hack up a lung because she has developed a cold while I was away.

And then there’s Yappy. His separation anxiety is so bad that he won’t let me out of his sight. He lost weight because he wasn’t eating consistently—doggy depression. To hear Hope tell it, there was whining, under-the-bed-hiding, and in-house pooping (TMI).

In short, without mom, this place fell to hell in a hand-basket.

Is it wrong that I kinda feel good about that? I mean, it’s nice to be missed. It’s nice to know you’re needed.

It’s nice to be loved.

I told the dog and the kid I loved them. I took Hope to the dentist and therapy then forced some Robitussin cough syrup with a McDonald’s chaser on her. I picked up a few groceries, then took Yappy to the park and plied him with lots of treats. There’s a load of my travel laundry in the wash.  Momming doesn’t give a crap about fatigue.

I asked Hope if she missed me. She hemmed and hawed; then said, “Yeah, I guess I missed you, but I knew you were coming back.”

She knew I was coming back.

Well, that was the best welcome home gift ever. It means Hope trusts me. She trusts that I’ll be there, that I’ll move heaven and earth to get home to her. She believes in me and my love for her.

My daughter trusts me. Hope trusts me. That totally blows my mind.

All I could do was nod when she said she knew I was coming back to her. We were in the car, so there was no eye contact. I wiped my eyes and played it off as fatigue. I smiled on the inside. I didn’t smile on the outside since I didn’t want to turn the moment into anything mushier than it already was. I didn’t want to kill the vibe and make her play like she didn’t really mean it.

I really melted in that moment though.

Would be nice if I could convince Yappy that I was coming back, alas, life isn’t that simple.

After an amazing trip with my own mom, I’m so very happy to be home with my little family.

Family Unions

This weekend Hope and I will travel to my mother’s hometown to join up with other descendants of my great-great grandparents. I haven’t attended a family reunion since I was a girl in grade school, so I’m excited to go see cousins from all over at a huge gathering of my people.

As I registered me and my daughter for this event, I really wondered about how Hope felt about attending this event.

Hope often remarks how large my side of our family is compared to her side. She comments on how her paternal side seems large but she just doesn’t really know many of the people even though they seem to remember her from when she was a small child.

Behaviorally, it’s clear that my daughter has found her place on my side of the family. She adores her aunts and cousins. She has relationships with her grands. We’re still working past the big emotions related to reclaiming her place on her side of her family. The visits are less frequent because of distance and emotional stability. The conversation is stilted and awkward. The perceived demands that she remember, forgive and embrace them all are hard to overcome. It’s definitely a work in progress.

But family gatherings during the holidays and summer break with my family seems substantially different than going to a family reunion. Did other descendants choose to build their families through adoption? I know of some kinship adoptions in our extended family, but there are still some relations there that just are.

Will Hope feel overwhelmed by the event—beyond her “I don’t like crowds” complaints? Will her new roots in this family be enough to make her feel safe at this event? Will she choose to blend in not mentioning our type of family or will she feel like she needs to separate herself by disclosing our adoption? How best do I make her feel safe with any choice she chooses to make?

My parents and a sister did our Ancestry DNA tests several months ago and have been intrigued and amused at the results. It’s interesting to see how DNA trickles through the bloodlines. I bought a test for Hope who at one point was very, very interested in doing her test, and then she just dropped it and resisted talking about it anymore. I wondered if all that was revealed in watching my immediate family go through the process, uncovering family secrets and connecting with far flung relatives, was just too much to consider for my daughter.

And so, here we are again, at the precipice of another major family event. Will my daughter embrace it? Will she be a distant observer and not feel connected to any of it? Will she reconcile that paper and blood can coexist in families? Will she feel something for these people…these strangers?

I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a lot of emotions about this family reunion. I’m excited to see kinfolk, but I don’t know how my daughter will fit this into her lived experience. I’m not sure what being sensitive looks like here. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, and hopefully maybe it won’t matter at all. Maybe, she will just slide in, grab a hotdog, sit down next to a distant cousin who is cute and figure it out. Sometimes she can be a total boss like that.

Taking my daughter to my/our family reunion is expanding her union and that feels really, really significant. I try to think of our biological families as tied together by us—similar to how families are joined in marriage—ours is joined in adoption. I think a lot about how unbalanced it already feels sometimes, and I wonder if and how this will add to that?

I wouldn’t want to not take Hope as that sends a dangerous signal. Hope is my daughter. Hope is my sole beneficiary to everything that’s mine. She is my lovely, beautiful girl. She is my daughter. Of course, she goes to the family reunion.  Duh! That’s a non-starter.

But there’s always another side to things and that’s Hope’s feelings about it.

I’ve asked her about it. She hasn’t said much. So, I guess I’ll press forward, put on my family reunion t-shirt on Saturday morning, see if Hope puts on her family ‘union’ t-shirt and see what happens. Whatever happens I’ll be there for her as usual.

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

Three Years Ago

Three years ago today, Hope arrived at DCA with her social worker. She was originally scheduled to arrive the day before, but the weather on the east coast was so bad that her flight was canceled.

I remember heading to the airport that cold January night and waiting for her to emerge from security.

I was alone.

I was alone because I worried that a big group of folks would be overwhelming to a child who, for the previous few weeks, had resisted moving. Hope was afraid. She’s already experienced so much change in her life. She wanted to have some normalcy where she was for just a few more months.

Alas, all the adults thought that it was time to make the move. And so, she did.

I arrived at the airport early, snarfed down a couple of doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts while I waited for Hope to arrive and deplane.

This would be her second trip to see me and her final destination this go ‘round.

I remember she emerged from security looking tired, a bit overwhelmed and a bit afraid.

I hugged her. I was so happy she was here.

She hugged me back, but I don’t know if the hug really made her feel better.

We got her luggage, and dropped her social worker off at the hotel.

And then it was just the two of us.

It has been that way ever since.

In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago, and others, it seems like just yesterday.

Hope has grown into an amazing young woman. She is creative, feisty, and musical. She is loving and kind. She is polite.

We have built an amazing life together.

We are growing and stretching. Sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes, it’s just the best thing ever.

I love Hope so very much.

This family is everything. It’s beyond whatever I could’ve imagined.

I’ve learned so much about myself during this time. I would not have ever anticipated what this life as a mom to Hope would have been like. It’s beyond my comprehension.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, often, it has been devastatingly difficult at times.

It’s been difficult for both of us.

Transitioning to motherhood was swift. Understanding the true impacts of trauma and how to parent through it is a work in progress. Checking my anger is a learned process; I’m improving.

Ugh, and the weight gain. I’ve put on about 20lbs of teen adoption weight.

I’m older and wiser though.

Hope struggled with the transition to permanence. She got there with time. We still struggle with horrible memories and persistent grief. As she approaches normalcy we see latent issues emerge, and we tackle them.

She’s a little older and possibly a little wiser too.

We continue to observe these moments in our history; we may stop one day. I don’t know. But we still do count these milestones. We think about how far we have come. We think about how bonded we are now; we think about our futures.

We have a little something sweet.

And then we get on with the life we’ve created together.

I love Hope, and Hope loves me.

Serenity in Short Bursts

I’ve really, really, really been focused on maintaining calm in the household for the last week.  And you know, it works. I have let Hope’s stank attitudes about various things just roll off me like water. I’ve very calmly let her know when she has crossed certain lines and what certain expectations are. The energy I would usually expend being emotional with Hope, I’ve transferred into dedicated self-care.

I’ve exercised every day. I made it to bed one night at 9:30pm. I ate healthy. I enjoyed the sunshine taking Yappy to the dog park.

It’s been a peaceful week; well kinda.

Hope told a whopper this week (she even lies like a little kid); I busted her and punished her.

I also signed Hope up for a commercial tutoring program this week.  I did not spring this on her. I told her; we went to the initial assessment last weekend.  When I told her how this would affect her weekly schedule; she lost her ish. She was furious; I just let her be, but she gave off some nasty energy with her icy silent treatments.

Through it all, I remained serene. It was all good.

And then, this morning, the third morning in which Hope dragged arse in the morning. The thought of her missing the bus (again) and cutting into my workout (me) time made me hit my limit. I mean…I just couldn’t do the calm thing again. I lit right into her.

And she was ready with full on teen attitude.

She still had attitude later at the orthodontist. And I had no serene patience for her.

I’m realizing that I did pretty good for keeping it chill for a whole week. It gave me some perspective; I had time and energy to invest in myself. I felt better. I slept better.

Trying to keep things calm around here is a good goal; there are going to be flares and I have to accept that and know that it’s normal. I mean, really my blow up with still so much less intense than usual. My try for this month is really going to be to focus on parenting with calmness. I gotta believe that Hope will benefit from it, but honestly, I am doing it for me.

I need more serenity—and it’s not about knowing the difference about change vs. no change; it’s really about me having a sense of calmness and happiness. That’s my goal. I want to be happy. Parenting is hard. I told someone it’s the greatest bait and switch that ever existed.

You have the amazing drive to procreate and/or raise a child healthily and with your values and so much goodness. That drive is all about you, really. The reality is parenting is about constant sacrifice. It often is thankless and a lot of time, it’s chaotic.

For Hope and me, it’s always had a sense of chaos, and I’m tired of it. No mas. No mas.

I am seeking serenity and happiness in this life chapter, and that means that I need to step up, breathe and exhale into this like a complicated yoga pose that requires you to clear your mind and just open your heart.

It kinda hurts so good.

This evening it is back to calmness and a focus on how long can I stay in that space.

The Big Stuff

I realized something recently.  Hope’s epic disaster moments are easier for me to handle than the more routine dumb stuff teens do.

She doesn’t clean her room for a week, and I lose my ever-loving mind.  It is one of my biggest pet peeves.

She’s finds herself talking to an internet predator and insists on lying about it in the face of damning evidence, and I can find oceans of patience.  #iamthepacific

Maybe the latter moments just matter so much more that I deep down know that I have to keep it together.

I actually realized this months ago, but this week’s internet episode brought it into focus for both of us.

I’ve wondered why the day to day, routine stuff gets under my skin so much.  They are more pet peeves and indicators of basic levels of respect, I suppose.  The day to day stuff just infuriates me so.

Staying up later than bedtime. Not getting at least half of the chores done. Privileged expectations about getting material things (amazing how quickly kids can get there). The messy bedroom.

These are the kind of things that drive me nuts. No matter how much effort I expend to chill in some of these areas, they simply make me snap.

But the big stuff? It’s like I can stand outside of myself watching the scene unfold and go, “Keep your wits about you. You totally got this!  Werk, girl, werk!”

This week’s internet fiasco was uncovered during a random device check (more about the Constitution of ABM in a later post). And there it was, in all its hot mess, terrifying glory.

“So who is XX?”

“Hmm, what?   A friend.”

Friend, my arse.

Higher level investigative questioning initiates. Answers are shady as hell and full of poorly constructed lies.  I’m scrolling through and targeting specific texts for more in-depth analysis.  Inside I am shaking because I know what I’ve stumbled on to. I’m angry, but I’m more scared than angry. I manage not to yell.

“So you don’t know him.  And do you think this violates the primary rule of this whole device thing?”

“Uhm…” Mad and still lying.  How is she mad??? My inner mom has pulled out duct tape and is desperately trying to hold me together.

I commence to start threatening texting the suspect and wipe her devices’ hard drives after searching everything.

And then I just dropped the conversation to give her some time to wrestle with her demons.  Later, over Costco pizza and hot dogs, we talk about the hows, whys, and her social and emotional struggles. I got the whole frightening story over a picnic table at Costco and kept it cool. #lawdicant #holdmebackholyhomeboy

I saw my young teenager, and I heard Hope explaining her desperate need to be accepted and cared about by her peers. The thirst is real. I saw and heard how hard it was for her. I saw her drop the mask and the lies and just be vulnerable. I was able to tell her that I saw her and I heard her. We talked about what it meant to be vulnerable and to be discerning and how to develop skills of the latter so she was less of the former.

Because she doesn’t have a “good girlfriend” to tell her that her butt looks bad in those jeans or that she needs to change social tactics, we created agreed upon scenarios when I will code switch and play that role until she develops a friend relationship that can fill that need. She hasn’t called me by my given name in 18 months; now, if she calls me by that name, that’s my cue to code switch.

We role played some social situations, right there at that picnic table in Costco. She told me she was only a 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 5 on a happy scale. I got her to tell me some stuff that would get her to at least a 3, maybe a 4.  We got goals, folks, we got goals.

And we still have so much work to do.

By the time we went for froyo, we were in an amazingly good place.  I rarely severely punish in these moments.  The punishment consequences just wouldn’t get her where I need her to evolve to, so they are an exercise in futility.  She apologizes profusely for more than a week, more because she still harbors a fear of being rejected by me because she does dumb stuff and is thus dumb rather than because she actually did the dumb stuff. Wiping the hard drives and locking down everything is a more productive approach for us right now.

I probably bought myself some currency for future yelling about the mayhem that is Hope’s room or how she notoriously runs late for breakfast during the school week. I really hope so, since right this moment I’m trying to get her to get that room together before we go out for the day and I’m about to lose it (again).

I wish I could handle the routine stuff as well as I handle the big stuff, but I think that the big stuff will simply matter more in the long run.

Supporting You from the Back Room

So, it is official: there will be no dedication, no blessing.

I kinda knew this was coming, but hearing it, especially after the week I’ve had…ugh.

Hope and I crashing a baby dedication wouldn’t fit the precious motif they’ve constructed.

Having a separate adoption blessing for families like ours isn’t really the direction they want to go in, because well, won’t all those other families with their biological children want their kids/families blessed?  I mean, you can’t expect them to just bless EVERYONE, do you? #sarcasm

Yes, we know it is so disappointing when you don’t get what you want. #yeahpastorsaidthatwhileIsobbed

They would be happy to do something privately after church, when no one is around to witness it and ask all kinds of questions they don’t want to answer; I can even invite anyone I want. My handler family pastor would even be happy to do it.  #heywhydontwejustdoitatsizzler

And that would be something else for me to plan and coordinate; like I don’t have enough to do.

“It’s just not on our grid.”

“We can’t change our motif.”

No, I replied, you’re actively choosing not to.

“We’re still supporting you.”

How’s that?

It’s odd to reject a blessing and to do it standing on a principle.  But I can’t do it, not in a backroom so that the blessing of me and Hope doesn’t offend some fellow churchgoers’ sensibilities or makes them wonder why we’re being blessed and they aren’t.  Or even worse because me and my 13 year old just aren’t as cute and precious as the babies being blessed every 4th Sunday and we just don’t fit the “motif.” I don’t feel supported in doing that, and I don’t want to co-sign on that marginalization.

It’s not that I’m hunting for attention, standing on stage getting blessed, but I just don’t understand the need to hide my family. I suppose I’m somehow grateful that any offer was made, but it’s hard for me to not grasp how *they* didn’t see how it might be…offensive. And hurtful, deeply hurtful. I loved my church before all this, now I can barely stand driving by it.

Saying that my church did something offensive to me is weird, but I’ve left a church before because I found raging bigotry offensive, so I guess it happens. I guess in my privileged mind, I never thought I’d be on the receiving end of the offense. #thatsprivilegeforya #blindedbyprivilege

The family pastor hopes I’ll turn the other cheek. #WWJD #imnotJesus

Sadly, I am not sure I can.  And it’s not even like it’s a crisis of faith or anything. I just totally disagree with the whole deal.

I’m grateful to finally have this mess resolved.  I’m not sure how to explain to Hope that we will be moving churches.  She enjoys the services there. But we’ll be visiting other churches.  I don’t want my daughter to see me just not go because of this; we need to be in fellowship somewhere.  My current church no longer feels fellowshippy.

I’ve been doing diversity work for a long time now.  It is an odd feeling to have a new identity that somehow isn’t welcomed.  It’s also an odd juxtaposition of being held up to adoption-sainthood, but being asked to be blessed in the back room.  It’s odd after enduring all the metaphors about Christ adopting us and how God loves adoption…to hear that we don’t fit…I just can’t.

Despite the sadness, I’m glad this chapter is now closed.

Well, the beat goes on.  Special thanks to the kind folks at DC127 for reaching out to me through FB with leads to churches where Hope and I will be welcome and supported in ways that will help us grow and be a healthy, successful family. I’m going to turn my attention to pursuing some of those leads and finding us a new church home.

Searching for Self

The search for information about Hope’s family started a year ago for me. I starting digging for numerous reasons, I suppose, but mostly I was curious about how this kid ended up in my home instead of with her parents  or with some extended family.  I just couldn’t understand how somebody in her family couldn’t make a kinship adoption work.

Honestly, it is still a mystery to me on some levels, even if I now know–intellectually at least–why.

I poked around with the help of a friend on Hope’s father’s side of the family.  I had more information about him; I knew where he was from; I also had a better sense of who he was because Hope talks about him a lot.

All I have about Hope’s mother is her full name, nationality and a scattering of information in the adoption disclosure records.  Hope and her mother were separated when Hope was very young; there aren’t many memories to go on.

Hope has been wanting to get an account on Ancestry-dot-com. I’ve declined repeatedly.  Lots of reasons for that.  I know that as thirsty for information as Hope can be, that showing her the records I have managed to acquire over the last year, in what I hope is a safe, controlled environment still triggered some emotional tailspins.  And while that’s true, it’s is hard to say no to a kid who just wants to know who she is. Add to that the developmental teen years when identity development is so front and center, well…

This weekend Hope and I visited some family; at some point in my trip one of my sisters was cruising around looking for family on Ancestry.  It was a fascinating process, tedious too, uncovering some family history, maybe a secret or two and just seeing how far back we could go. I noted my own sister’s curiosity about our family.  Earlier in the day I had taken Hope to meet a family member who still lives in the same county, on the same property near where my mother was raised.  I spent a lot of my childhood there playing the fields, picking grapes and berries, listening to box fans whirl while propped in windows during the summer. These experiences in these places with my family are very much a core to who I am.

And just like that, unexpectedly, the tail end of Spring Break was all about family.

So, when Hope publicly asked me to sign up for Ancestry last night, in front of my family, I couldn’t say no; even though I am still not positive we are stable enough to handle what we might find.

So, on the way home, Hope and I talked. Talking about Hope’s mom is tough.  The feelings are raw; the viewpoint is unforgiving, the experiences and feelings are locked in a protective glass case.

I opened the case last night, cautiously. I shared what I knew; dropped a bombshell that I did know about Hope’s lineage. Then I spent a good 30 minutes talking to hope about grace and forgiveness sometimes being for our own benefit, and that I’m sure her parents would have been able to make different choices if different options were available; or if they thought/knew different options were available.  I tried to explain that systems are not always set up to help us in the ways we need to be helped.

Hope wondered what life for her would’ve have been like if her parents had the help and support they needed.  I remember how I felt rejected when the first time she said something like this; I don’t anymore.  I just feel sad because I wonder what life would’ve been like too, for all of us.

When we got home I showed Hope some more papers from her disclosure records that helped me know what I do know about her parents.  There are some things she wants to frame.

It was a bit shocking to me that she wanted to frame a copy of a copy of a document. But I get it. I just wish that we didn’t have to wait until she is 18 to get authentic copies of things she’s entitled too.  It infuriates me that I can’t request them on her behalf–after all, I am legally her mother now. I also know that these documents are important to Hope’s healing and development.

We also talked about what it might feel like to stumble upon some big information on Ancestry.  Was Hope ready?  Was she ok with that?  What would it feel like? Now she’s not so sure she’s ready to search for stuff.  It’s not that I don’t want her to search at all; it’s the uncontrolled environment that scares me.

Even more so, it’s the reaction to information and what it means for my coping with her coping that scares me.

Sounds pretty selfish, but honestly, other than in my own therapy and a couple of close friends, I don’t talk about what the emotional upheaval is like in my “real” life other than to say it’s hard and I’m still standing.

We go through some emotional stuff around these parts.  It’s sooooo much better than it used to be.  We’ve gotten better at processing it, but it is never easy. It takes a toll.

And I’d be lying if I said I wish I could avoid it, even though I know I can’t.

This family journey search will likely be one of the most important, most challenging, most enlightening, most shocking, most scary, most awesome journeys Hope and I will travel together.

I’m scared I won’t get it right.  I’m scared that whatever grace is needed from me will run out.  And yeah, to some degree, I’m scared that I might get rejected.

So, like many things I’m going to work on this behind the scenes for a while and see what I can find so that I’m prepped and ready to help Hope find herself–because that’s what this is really about, right?

Mother’s Day Musings

It’s Mother’s Day; my first one. Hope and I just returned from my graduation trip where we had a great time, and I got the best gift ever. Throughout the ceremony, I saw my sweet girl snap-happy, clicking away with her digital camera. After the ceremony after I met up with Hope and my sisters, my daughter hugged me repeatedly and said, “I’m so proud of you.” I had to hold back tears. #shehadmeathello

I’m sure she’d never gone to a graduation before, certainly not one for a doctoral candidate #gobigorgohome, but she was delighted to see my name and dissertation title in the program, happy to take many pictures and jazzed to hear my name as I was hooded by the university president. It was the culmination of a long journey for me and I couldn’t have been blessed with a bigger cheerleader. I will always drop a tear thinking about the moment she told me she was proud of me. (It was super, super awesome special to have my sisters with me too, by the way.)

Yesterday was really my Mother’s Day. Today is just a do-over for me that includes the need to cram in some errands, a family therapy appointment and take-out for dinner (my present to myself for the day) before doing Hope’s hair for the week. #mothersworkisneverdone #apparentlyever

Our trip to Chicago triggered “better” times which always make it easier for me to say yes, to have patience, to just have fun with Hope. After the last few weeks, I needed us to hit a stride of “better.” I hope it lasts a while.

And yet, there’s something about days that honor parents that brings tinges of sadness for Hope and other kids like her. This weekend we touched on issues of curiosity about the wellbeing of her birth mother, grief about the loss of her dad, the good and bad parenting she experienced in her short life, and a chat about me as mom.

We navigated things well with lots of reassurance and lots of openness. We don’t sugar coat things in our home; her experience is her story and she remembers the good, the bad and the ugly. I learn something new, and often heartbreaking, every time we have one of these talks. I also know that these talks are evidence that we’re doing ok, maybe even better than ok.

I see my job as, in part, trying to help her remember that her birth parents loved her, but they just couldn’t take care of her for lots of different reasons. Bad things happened but it wasn’t her fault and while people have maligned her birth parents most of her time in the system, they are no threat to me and they are no longer a threat to her. It’s ok for her to remember the happy times and to be free to talk about them. It’s ok for her to talk about the bad times and to try to reconcile how all this history could involve the same people. It’s ok for me to try desperately to teach her that nothing was her fault, that she is now safe and loved, even during the times when she is being a real pain in the arse.

I’ve heard about the bitter sweetness of days like Mother’s Day for some adoptive parents. I couldn’t understand it before, but I get it now. There’s a celebration of us as mothers and fathers, but it’s laced with a sadness and grief about how our children ended up needing us in the first place.

So, with that, I’m glad that I had a great day of celebration yesterday, before the actual holiday that represents a bit of both joy and pain for me and Hope.  It really is a privilege to be Hope’s mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, whatever kind of mother you may be.  xoxo


OMG, She Looks Like You!

So, I’ve been pondering this topic for a minute and am finally sitting down to see if I can parse through some of my own thinking and feeling about a curious phenomenon related to my recent announcement to family and friends that I am adopting Hope.

Last month I posted a cute picture of Hope and me as an announcement of my #pregnantbypaperwork status.  The very, very kind and supportive comments flowed.  It was lovely, beyond lovely actually.  It was super awesome.  Numerous people commented, “OMG, you guys even look alike! Match made in heaven” or something like that.  I had a lovely chat with a sweet, dear friend who called to check in today.  During our chat, she broached this subject of my and Hope’s alleged resemblance tenderly, noting that she wondered if she really saw a resemblance or if it was some kind of way her brain was trying to knit Hope and I together in a supportive way.

Hmmm.  I’m utterly convinced it’s the latter.  Hope and I do not look alike, despite many comments to the contrary.  Good Lord, even my mother thinks Hope has my late uncle’s eyes…she might, maybe, a little bit.  Eh, shrug.

So, here’s my thinking on this:  People are happy for me (warm fuzzies).  People want to be supportive (more warm fuzzies).  We see what we want to see in order to further the desire to be happy and supportive.  This is pretty natural.  Hey, I dated someone for two miserable years because I thought being with him would one day, miraculously, make me happy—it didn’t.  Actually, I’ve had a few of those kinds of relationships, though I seem to have broken that nasty habit.   Ok, maybe that was a melodramatic example, but stay with me here.

I’m not creating a family the way that many of my friends are or have, and I had no desire to seek out a child who bore some resemblance to me or my family.  Sure I thought about it as I thought about all the various scenarios about what life would look like with my child and how we might be received by the world around us.  I really didn’t give much thought specifically to resemblance though; maybe because I just assumed we wouldn’t look anything alike.  I mean really, what are the odds??  It was startling when people started to comment about Hope’s and my alleged resemblance.   I didn’t see it then; I still don’t.  Hope says she favors her biological father; she’s proud of that.  She loved him very much.  She doesn’t have any pictures of him, so looking like her dad is important to her and her identity.

I’ve come to believe that the warm desire to help me tie my adoption of Hope together with a neat bow and be supportive leads the brain to seeing a familial resemblance between Hope and I that really isn’t there.  Of course, Hope’s desire to look like her father may affect any ability I have to find some shade of resemblance between us; the brain is funny that way.  I’m sure the fact that we’re both Black helps to facilitate all this brain activity.   I’m guessing it also happens in other same/similar race adoptions too.   I’m guessing this is not a particularly common occurrence in cross-racial adoptions, but some quick google searches reveal there are desires to find some kind of resemblance connection in these adoptions too.

With infants, we’ve all made comments about whether the little one looks like a presumed parent—this just happened with fellow blogger, Complicated Melodi, who was providing respite care for an infant recently.  Hope isn’t an infant, though, and really, I don’t think she favors me at all, so it’s an intriguing occurrence to receive these comments from pals.

This is different than when we’re out and about and someone assumes I’m Hope’s mom.  Usually, the assumption is based on our proximity together or their having been privy to a bit of our banter, which on my trip this week I realized totally sounds like a mom and tween daughter (Squeal!!  More on that later).  There is rarely a mention of any resemblance; no, this phenomenon only happens with people I know.

So, what’s the point of this post?  Not sure, other than to parse through another emotional nugget in the adoption process.   My daughter is lovely and just beautiful.  I don’t think she looks anything like me.  I have no idea if she looks much like either of her biological parents.   The compliment that Hope favors me is sweet and I think I understand what is really being seen and said.  I’m a mom. Biology really doesn’t matter, because I’m still a mom.  I’m grateful for the sentiment even if I don’t see the visual connection.  I’m also grateful that so many people were so kind and supportive of my new little family.

K E Garland

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