Tag Archives: Extended Adoptive Families

Thoughts on Momming an Adoptee

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month, and as I always do, I spend some time scanning Twitter reading adoptee tweets and reading adoptee blogs and articles. I do that all year, of course, but I take a special interest the adoptee voice during NAAM. I think a lot about what they are saying and what Hope might be thinking about her experience as an adoptee.

I mean, whether she knows it or not yet, these are her people, and they are giving voice to some of the stuff that is probably floating around in her head. Stuff she is unable or not ready to articulate.

So, I listen. I try to talk a little less and listen a bit more.

I write about my experiences as an Adoptive Black Mom, but I’m mothering an adoptee, Hope.

Part of my job as Hope’s mom is helping her find her voice. I don’t know what my daughter’s future holds for her. It would surprise me if she evolved into an adoptee advocate/activist; Hope is becoming a conscious kid, but it remains to be seen whether that will blossom into something. Who knows though, right?

Part of momming Hope is helping her figure out how she wants adoption to fit into her story. She gets help dealing with the stuff that led to her being in a position to be adopted. She talks to me about what she’s ok with being disclosed. Hope decides how much contact she wants with her extended biological family. Hope gets to decide how how/whether she wants to use her name, since we just added my name to her existing name. Hope gets to make a lot of decisions; my job is making sure that her surrounding environment is open and safe for her to make decisions and for her to have as many options as possible. My job is to be a facilitator. I get to help make this stuff happen. My other job is to check my ego as a adoptive mom.

Adoptive parents are often held up as these amazing saviors. Certainly, children need homes and people want families and adoption is often a bridge between those two facts. The truth is that I wanted to be a mom. My decision to adopt was selfish. Even the so-called noble choice to adopt an older child was rooted in my desire to maintain some aspects of my lifestyle—I didn’t want to have to deal with full time day care or feedings or potty training or any of that. I wanted to be able to still travel without taking a small house of baby stuff with me. An older child would be beyond that stage, would even as I parent offer some kind of engaging companionship, would be able to pack their own overnight bag for a trip anywhere. How I got to the mom I am now started in a pretty selfish place, and I’m ok with that.

I’m still far from perfect; and sometimes I fail miserably, but I hope my efforts count for something.

In pursuing older child adoption, I’ve also learned that there are a few more privileges that some other adoptive parents might not have. I don’t have to worry about figuring out how or whether to tell my daughter that she’s adopted. My daughter knows more about her story than I ever will, and she is more than capable of telling me what she wants me to know.

Like some other adoptive parents, I had to figure out early on how to incorporate biological family into our familial universe. I had to learn to lean into my own lessons on graciousness and the expansiveness of love. There can’t be a lot of jealousy or threatening feelings when you focus on welcoming people into a family. Your kid doesn’t have to figure out whose team they are on when parents conceptualize only one big team.

My daughter’s story is not normal, but I’ve worked hard to normalize our family and our life. I never want Hope to question my love and support for her. I never want her to think that I thought adoption cut her off from her biological and genetic connections. It’s easy to say those things don’t count when you have access to your biological/genetic connections.  I never want her to feel like she can’t talk about her birth parents in our home. I never want her to feel like she has to make a choice in defining her family holistically. When she has asked me to find someone in her family; I have. When she has then said she didn’t want to make contact, I put the information away until she changes her mind. When she asked to do something special for her family members who have crossed over, we have said prayers, celebrated birthdays with cakes and released balloons (sorry environment). What Hope needs to help her navigate her adoptive life, I do what I can to make it happen.

I have tried to create an inclusive family for us, and you know what? It hasn’t been difficult. It has occasionally been a little challenging, but it hasn’t been hard. Being Hope’s mom has called me to step my game way up. I’m better for it. I hope that Hope is better for it.

So, I hope this year, this month, National Adoption Awareness Month, that APs will create space for their kids to broadly love and be broadly loved. I hope that we can learn that more is better. I hope that we can support our kids in the ways they need, not just the ways we need. I hope that we can listen to adoptees more and heed their advice and guidance. I hope we can all just love more.

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Forgiving and Forgetting

Grammy is here.

Hope is falling in love with her.

The last couple of days have been an interesting mini-trip on this adoption journey.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had some anxiety about what life would be like in my house with Grammy staying.  We’ve just had a rough go of it.

The truth is she’s been wonderful.  She’s in love with her granddaughter.  She wants to be helpful, even offering to do laundry and cook.  She’s told me I need support, especially for respite.  She’s observed all the things I need to take care of in a day to help Hope and to manage this huge transitional phase in our lives.  She realizes how different my experience is from her own parenting experience and is gaining a better understanding of why I need to do things differently.

I realized during the last few days that it wasn’t just that I was terrified of being judged, but that my overall confidence about being a new parent was in the crapper.  Having Grammy say she gets it, as she watched me try to navigate various systems and engage with Hope during the last few days, has greatly improved my confidence.  It is hard, but I got it under control.  I do need help, but let me be the one that decides what help I need; I’m best positioned to do that.

I got this.

For all of the rosiness, Grammy still feels some kind of way about how I’ve handled the last couple of months with Hope—mainly my need to cloister us a bit so that we have time to just attach and be mom and daughter.  She still disagrees with that choice, and she’s made mention of it repeatedly during her stay.

Sigh.  #cantwealljustmoveon

I finally just told her that I needed to not have this conversation again; I made a choice, I made the right choice for my family—MY FAMILY—and I would do it again.  And it’s done, why are we still talking about it?  I get that you would do it differently, but you aren’t me and you’re not dealing with what I’m dealing with, and it’s easy to pontificate about how you would handle someone else’s life without any skin  in the game.  Can you just drop it?

Grammy just looked at me, kind of stunned.

Then she simply said, “Ok.”

I found my voice, and I had to use it.  Funny, Grammy gave me the confidence to defend my parenting decisions and to defend them to her.  #nowcanwemoveon?

I’m glad she’s here.  I love Grammy. I laid my head in her lap for 5 minutes yesterday.  I hugged her.  I do need her; I always knew I did.  But I need her on my terms.  We’re forgiving each other.  I just want to move forward.  You can’t really change the past, and forgetting it can be challenging too, but you can choose to change your future.   I’m learning to let some things go with Hope; I think I’ve got to learn to let some things go with Grammy too.

I love her, and I’m hopeful about us navigating all these new roles, emotions and ideas in meaningful ways moving forward

Grammy’s here.


Minding the Gap

I remember when I had my first meeting with my adoption agency in January.  I had to explain how I had come to the decision to adopt and why I wanted to adopt an older child.  I remember telling the program director that this was an incredibly bittersweet time in my life; I had a few short months before been told by a reproductive specialist that I would not be able to have biological children without the help of a whole frigging school of engineering and even then the window of possibility was ridiculously Continue reading


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