Tag Archives: Family

We Are Family

I grew up in a very traditional nuclear family. So did my parents. So did my grandparents. And so on, and so on. I remember thinking nothing of it.

Today all the folks we consider kinfolk has expanded dramatically. Adoption, marriage, babies, step kids…I often joke that we have duct taped and stapled folks to our family tree.

And that’s a good thing for all of us.

Over spring break we visited Hope’s side of the family. Previous visits were short,this one had us in the area for 3 days. It was worth all the driving and all the angst.

I’ve always known this but I see and know it more than ever now: There is something about being with your people that is incredibly powerful. Nature means folks look like you and sound like you, act like you. Hope’s biological relationship with her kinfolk is undeniable; she looks just like them.

We learned a lot about Hope’s family on this trip. I better understand why kinship adoption wasn’t the best fit and how that truth has nothing to do with love. I wish that things had been different for Hope and for them, but we can only look forward. On this trip I learned what it feels like to also be grafted into a family tree. I imagine that this isn’t quite what Hope felt, but maybe something along a parallel track.

This is the family visit when it all came together.

Well it did for me anyway. I think Hope is still trying to figure it all out. For us adults, we have life skills and emotional intelligence to make this work more easily. I see their love for my daughter; they see my love for their daughter. There doesn’t need to be any drama; we are a family and we’ll do what we have to in order to make it work for Hope because that’s what sensible grown folks do.

Hope still has some work to do in this area. She has quickly become territorial about aspects of the experience and even the chocolate cake her grandmother made because she knows I love cake. Hope isn’t a big fan of cake. It will likely go uneaten because I decided to just let it be her cake, which I know she will not eat (more on the cake in a separate post).

It is a strange thing for all the adults in a room brought together by the love of a child to get it together only to watch the child struggle.

My daughter was frustrated by the family desire to talk about her parents; she quietly complained that she didn’t want to talk about them unless they came up in conversation, but they did, a lot. My inner monologue also was running and said, “Well why the hell are we here if not to be around your family who will no doubt talk a lot about your parents???” I knew better than to ask that question out loud.

I relished in getting pictures of my daughter as a little girl with her parents, while she alternated between balking and sobbing at the imagery and demanding copies of everything. Mid-trip we talked about what it felt like to sit up at night and intensely study the pictures looking for resemblance and connection.

While I’m happy to have taken this trip, now that we are home I’m realizing the real emotional cost. It is hurts to know that my daughter doesn’t understand that there is enough love and loyalty to go around. There will be more questions, there will be more trips. I feel grafted into the family, but I’ve still got lots of questions and curiosity from my own biological family about “them.” If history is predictive, there will be big emotions. There will be clingyness. There will be pulling away. There will be anger. There will be just a lot of stuff. It exhausts me thinking about it.

But I would do it again. How could I deny Hope her family? How in good conscious could I do that? My emotional output is minimal compared to the opportunity to reconnect with family. To see her family delight in seeing her again, getting reacquainted, to have the chance to share childhood stories of her lost parent, to see themselves in her…it is a beautiful thing to witness.  This isn’t just for Hope; it’s for all of them.

We’ll visit again and again. I look forward to inviting them to visit, to graduations, to a wedding, to birthday parties and other events.

We are family.


ABM & DAI – The Sequel

I am so excited to share the second part of my series with The Donaldson Adoption Institute! In this post I discuss how same race adoptive families of color can also struggle with racial identity issues.  Sometimes class and race issues are socially tightly knit together.

For our children coming from hard places, becoming a part of a new family is a paradigm shift.  They may be struggling with big emotions like grief and fear; they are learning to be a part of a family that is likely a lot more functional that what they understand…there are new people, new schools, new everything. Often times there are also more resources.

My daughter Hope had a very different understanding of what it meant to be black before meeting me. It’s been a challenge for her to reconcile that black folk are not a monolith. Whether she or I want to admit it or not, the truth is that Hope is a solidly middle class kid now. Most of the time she seems comfortable with that, but in this Dondalson post I talk about when it’s not quick so easy for her.

Again, I’m delighted that the organization thought my voice was important and valuable. I’m totally jazzed that the good folks there have decided to feature my story as in honor of Black History Month.

Here is the link to the second of my two-part series over on the Donaldson Adoption Institute blog.  Be sure to stop by their Facebook page and hit them up on Twitter too!

dai

RACE, PRIVILEGE & FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS


Thoughts on Acceptance

Christmas was lovely.  Good times with family and friends. There was lots of eating, minimal exercise, movie watching, more eating, lots of laughs and lots of catching up and dishing about life.

There was also a decision to just consciously accept some stuff that my typical hot headed self wouldn’t bother to accept.

In life, there are countless things that we must reconcile between our greatest desires and our greatest disappointments.

It isn’t easy. Some times, even after years and lots of work, we find ourselves so easily triggered. The flood of disappointment and sadness come crushing back over us like a tsunami wave. Sometimes it feels like we have to start the grieving process all over again just because of one little innocuous sentence.

For me, I know that two big triggers in the last 4 years are folks with commentary on raising a child with a trauma background and having a baby.

It’s amazing how many people have so much to say about these topics. The former I know is really because the issues are largely masked for folks outside of my and Hope’s home. They don’t know what I know or see and experience what I do. They make assumptions about my parenting, and draw conclusions about me and Hope.

The latter is more complicated because most folks don’t know that my journey towards Hope came after a pretty traumatic life event that left me unable to bear children or that my chances of having a biological child were iffy even before the event.

In the early days of this journey, I never anticipated that folks would have so much to say.  Well, they do. And, well, that sucks because it hurts.

It hurts a lot sometimes.

I’ve read a lot about other people’s journeys through parenting trauma and infertility; my story and my sensitivity around these issues aren’t unique. In fact, daily folks are posting about conversations and announcements that pierce their hearts and reduce them to tears.

Over the years, I learned to live with my deflector shields half way up. Having them all the way up creates too much of a barrier between me and the people I love. Besides, after a few years, my ability to react and respond has improved along with their level of sensitivity.

Well, I realized on this trip that my emotional shields were fully lowered, but it’s ok. It forced me to make a decision that I think will be healthier for me.

I mentioned that there is a new baby in the family. My sister gave birth to a baby boy recently. Our family is over the moon. He’s just perfect.

This triggered some comments about how folks thought me and my sisters would never have children or that it’s such a blessing that my parents are  finally now grandparents.

Oh, great, we’re two for two!

In the moment on Christmas day, I gave myself the gift of acceptance. I shared that gift and sprinkled it liberally all about.

The reality is these are people I love deeply. These are people who want the best for me. These are people who would never knowingly hurt me. These are people who may not always know what to say.

Some of these folks are a bit older and aren’t necessarily hip to all of the ways folks might be hurt or offended. Some of these folks have reached the age where even if they did, they don’t have to be uber-sensitive about much anymore because: old.

The long and short of it is, no one means to hurt me or stick their foot in their mouth, and even if they did, what does it cost me in that moment to just accept it and move on?

Oh it hurts. It does; there’s no denying that.

But accepting that there is no malice, that they may be caught up in the euphoria of having a much-desired baby around (which frankly I am as well), well, it doesn’t cost me much.

Sure, I could politely correct them. I could gently educate them. I could do all kinds of things. But frankly, that just exposes more of me and whatever emotions I’m wrestling with. It also makes me feel like I have to bring the dark cloud I keep on the shelf in my mind closet out and drag it with me everywhere I go.

I’m tired of living like that.

Just accepting folks and assuming and believing the best in them saves us both. In some of those moments, they are expressing their own joy about whatever. I don’t need to temper their joy just because they used poor phrasing or were insensitive or just didn’t remember my ouchy places.

So, I made a conscious decision to just accept the presence of commentary that occasionally dredges my wounds.

It’s life, man. It just life. I can’t have hazard cones all over the place all the time. It’s exhausting, and frankly, it’s exhausting being hurt and/or angry. It’s exhausting having the same conversations over and over. And frankly, it’s ridiculous for me to think that my life is so big that everyone should speak in whispered tones around me about babies and trauma related behaviors.

I’m a grown ass woman. This life has put me through harder paces than that.

I mean, I could write my own list of things not to say to an infertile woman or a parent raising a child with a trauma background, but guess what? It wouldn’t make that much of a difference because the folks who typically make those comments don’t run in the blogging circles I do—it’s not going to be read by them.

So, I’ve decided to practice some grace and accept these moments as they come. It’s ok.

I also know that Hope watches me, and while I teach her to advocate for herself, I want her to see when and how I choose to do it for myself. Not everything needs a response. Not everything needs a bark and a bite.

Acceptance is a good thing for me. It allows me to just put things in context. It allows me to focus on the good. It allows me to not ache. It doesn’t mean that things don’t hurt, but it makes it manageable.

I can’t change people. I only have the power to change my reaction to people.

In the end that is the power play.


Boxes on Shelves

I listen to an absurd number of podcasts. Today on the way home from Hope’s orthodontia appointment, I cued up a recent episode of Modern Love. The episode featured essays read by recent Emmy winners. The first essay was written by a birth mother and her experiences with an open adoption. It’s a beautiful story that is full of love, heartbreaking and shows that these relationships can be beautiful but complicated.

At one point in the story, she says it is like being invited to dinner but not knowing where to sit. I totally get that. Even with the privilege that comes with being the legal parent, it’s awkward as hell.

Sometimes, depending on the content of a podcast, I might switch it up. Hope gets regular doses of politics, essays, crime stories, diversity and inclusion content…yeah, she is subjected to a lot, and at some point I’ll write my own essay about why this has been an academically good thing for her.

Today, I inhaled deeply as I realized what essay was about to be played. I’d heard the essay when it first aired, but Hope had not heard it. I thought about changing to another podcast, but stopped myself.  I know she listens when she’s in the car; it’s one of our most sacred spaces. I guessed that she might not want to talk about the essay later, but I was curious what she might say when she heard it read.

So, I just let it play.

I periodically glanced to see if Hope had any reactions; she really didn’t. But know she was listening, and I know that at some point we’ll probably talk about it.

Then I got lost in my own thoughts, thinking about how our own family has expanded in the nearly three years we’ve been together.

We observed the birthday of one of her first parents earlier this week. It was healthy, but emotional observation complete with a birthday cake.

I wondered what it must’ve felt like to be separated from Hope.

I wondered about how difficult it was to know that legally they would be separated forever—legally, not necessarily physically.

I wonder what Hope’s extended family thinks of how our relationship is going? Do they believe that Hope isn’t very chatty or that I am preventing her from calling them? I’m not, but do they recognize how complicated this relationship is for her? Do I realize how complicated this relationship is for them?

Do they also feel the push/pull that both Hope and I feel? The desire to build this healthy relationship and to try to quickly foster something, some kind of connection with the need to feel and be emotionally safe?

I wonder what will the future look like? I have information that some days burns a hole in my lock box because I want to chase Hope’s mom. I wonder what things will be like when we all do meet one day, since I believe that we will.

As the story concluded I gathered my thoughts and put them back in that emotional box that I keep on the shelf and put them away.

I looked over at Hope, still no expression, no words, no facial movements, no nothing.

But I know her; I know under her stoicism that a lot runs through her mind.

As that segment of the show came to a close and another reading began, I saw her reactions. She giggled and asked questions.

Like me, she had put those emotions away for another day.

Figuring out how to *do* this adoption, family, open thing is complicated, but something we’ll continue to try to figure out together.


It is Still a Trip

I so remember fondly the days when I could throw some clothes in a bag, grab my passport and hit the airport for a vacation abroad that I threw together a couple of weeks before.

Those were the days.

Today, I grasp at shreds of vacation dreams.

Now I take trips instead of vacations, and I feel all kinds of ways about that.

On the one hand, I love the idea of vacationing with Hope, and even taking Yappy along. I dream about having the opportunity to have fun with her, to show her lots of amazing sites in the country and world.

On the other hand, I just miss the days of old.

This year, I rented a small condo on the beach in Virginia. Substantially less expensive and much closer to family than last year’s trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Oh and it was a fraction of the cost of our trip last year, which is good since the first payment on Hope’s braces is due next week.  And finally, Yappy was welcome to tag along on this journey to the beach, where he would see sand for the very first time.

Since I traded in the Mini Cooper last winter, we would be traveling a lot more comfortably and with nothing strapped to the roof of the car.

I went into the trip feeling guardedly optimistic about all the precautions I had taken to try to make sure that it would be fun time for us all.

And then we headed out.

We traveled nearly all the way to the house when I caught a flat tire. And when I say “all the way” I mean, we were 2.4 miles away from the rental.

When we finally get there, the landlord had not obtained a mini-box for the TV so the cable didn’t work. The landlord also didn’t respond to my 3 phone calls and 2 texts about the WiFi password. And that was day 1.

Day 2, I managed to get in some exercise before I headed out with Hope to go buy a new tire. Of course Wallyworld did not carry my tire size, so then we had to hit a service station where the only tire the right size was the most expensive tire that was about $200. #HappyVacation Hope complained about the wait, pissed off the service station staff because I couldn’t censor her anti-Trump tirade because her ability to self-censor at critical times, like in mixed company, is non-existent. It also underscores her inability to read social reactions. By the time we bought groceries and hit the Starbucks my nerves were shot. When the barista messed up my drink I started to cry. ETA: How do you mess up a venti iced coffee with sugarfree vanilla syrup???

While sobbing on the way back to the car, I began to wonder why I keep trying to take these vacation/trips at all.

I hit another coffee shop, got my fix, got some Yappy snuggles and hit the beach. Managed to burn my feet on the sand. They are still sore and red. Oh and as soon as we got the umbrellas up and I got settled, Hope announced she was hungry and wanted to go inside, but not by herself, to get something to eat.

I said no, as I was still wiping the sweat from my brow from dragging everything to the beach and getting us set up.

Sigh

Then there was the spider sighting at 9pm that spun night 2 out of control. We’ve been doing so much better with the bug thing so I was able to be a bit more patient and consoling about it.

I relaxed on the couch most of today with Yappy. It was just so hot, that there was little reason to go out. Hope pulled up a chair because I never located the spider, which meant the comfy furniture was contaminated.

After a few hours out and an about, we returned back where she quickly spotted a moth and the freakout started all over again. I killed it, but that hasn’t abated the evening meltdown.

Tomorrow afternoon we head home, and I’m left wondering will we ever have a truly, truly enjoyable time? Should I just plan staycations from now on?  Should I just rent a bug free, hermetic bubble? Is there a happy medium?

Sure there were moments of some contentment, but they were fleeting and the crush of anxiety, phobias, and PTSD always seems to outweigh those few moments of relaxation.

Yeah, this was definitely a trip. It’s always a reminder of the hard place my kiddo survived. It’s just hard to enjoy a good life. I hope that she continues to heal and is able to just enjoy the world around her.

Despite all of the drama of this trip, I am optimistic for her healing.  She is much more mature than she was last year. The ability to manage the bug phobia is improved. The drive and desire to heal is such much more than it used to be.

There is hope for Hope. I believe that.

But for now, vacations are still trips for us. Yappy seems to have had a blast though. He traveled well, killed bugs and has snoozed like I thought I would while on vacation. I am jealous.


Family Ties

So, if you caught the last Add Water and Stir podcast, you know that I had a big breakthrough regarding Hope’s family recently. I made a conscious choice to drop the “bio” reference; they’re just “family” now. In dropping something, I hope to add something, though to be honest, I’m not sure what that something is yet.

After we received The Package with some really personal items, I couldn’t, in good conscious, continue to make this familial distinction. These folks are Hope’s family. And now as Hope is my daughter, I’m connected to them as well. As I kicked it around, it made the distinction of “bio” or other terms like “first family” or “birth family” or any of those kinds of terms seem intentionally separatist. So, I decided to just try to drop it.

I’m hoping that the rest of me follows along with this bold choice; is it even really all that bold really? I don’t know. Given my level of anxiety regarding Hope’s family, it certainly feels bold.

I’ve been thinking about my own family a lot lately, and how much I missed certain family members, including and especially my own grandparents. I want her to have access to lots of people who will just love on her; she needs the love. Her family can, hopefully, gently, cautiously, help give her the love she needs.

So, all this maturity ish that I’m working on led me to reach out to the family member who actually respected my wishes and laid low until I was ready to talk. She also happened to be one of the two family members Hope said she would like to have contact with in good time.

We talked this weekend, or rather, she did most of the talking this weekend.

It was an overwhelming rush of chatter. There were squeals, apologies for losing her, gratitude for adopting her, lengthy explanations about her view of what happened, promises to continue to lay low, wondering about how Hope will make contact, wondering whether Hope will make contact.

It was a lot. I tried to start sentences and would just get overwhelmed with words tumbling through the phone. I finally just kept quiet until it seemed like all the words fell to a trickle. In retrospect, I imagine she’s been waiting for this call, hoping for this call, had so much to say and potentially so little time to say it. She had to get it all in.

There were moments when my eyes welled as I learned tidbits of information that explained things or at least gave me some context. There were unfiltered moments that piqued my anxiety to hear about family discussions to try to fight me for Hope, discussions questioning why I was protective, why I wouldn’t just fling open the doors of our new life to them. There were moments when I felt so angry because she just kept using the polite euphemism, “well, you know she’s been through so much” to characterize Hope’s trauma. There were still other moments when I wonder whether she knows just how long the most traumatic episodes were or whether she was just in denial.

There were times when I wished I wasn’t Southern, but was glad that I am because I understood some of the traditional phrasings that said, “I know things were really effed up, but you know we don’t talk about that sort of thing.” The cultural touchstone pissed me off because I realize how much it mutes concrete discussions about effed up stuff. And Hope ain’t Southern; I wondered how pissed she would be because of this minimization of her lived experience. I was righteously pissed on her behalf.

And then I felt sad because I can only imagine what it must be to wonder what happened to your cousin/neice/daughter/sister/granddaughter when they were in the foster care system. My heart broke.

And even though I set up the call, I really wasn’t as sure what I wanted to say. I felt unsure and scared. I didn’t want the phone call to create a bunch of expectations of me or of Hope. So, when I finally spoke my normally loud voice was soft; I stammered because of nerves, I stumbled because I wasn’t always sure what words I wanted to us to get my point across.

This does not happen!! I make my living by largely talking. Not having words to articulate things…I don’t have the experience often. I was scared ish-less.

I had a couple of points to make: I wanted to see if Hope could have a healthy relationship with her family; I wanted to be clear about boundaries in any relationship and beyond boundaries, there were some complete and utter non-negotiables that we needed to consider moving forward with more contact.

I got a lot of “yeah, yeah, yeah’s” and “right, right, of course’s.” I want to believe her;I do.

But I’m not sure. I’m terrified that we’ll call and boundaries will get obliterated and lots of damage will be done. I’m scared, but I believe that I’m doing the right thing.

Sigh. Honestly, I’m exhausted by the call even a day later. I’m still trying to unpack it and tease through the complicated feelings so that I can be ok when I tell Hope that that door is now open.

Not sure what will happen next, but we’ll be moving forward. We wrestle with things that happened, but we still press forward. This is just another pit stop on our journey.


Silencing the Noise

Recently blogger, Love Hurts, posted an essay called, “am I a good mom?” I can’t say that I ask this question specifically; it’s more that I review collections of incidents and do assessments and think about where I could do better, how I could’ve done worse and be glad I didn’t.

I’m constantly looking to improve, but overall I have gotten to this space in which I try to be kind to myself. I try to give myself a break. It is an odd thing to have no kids one day and a kid, a teenager no less, the next day. It’s hard work. I get it half wrong or just all wrong every day. But I figure Hope seems happy, she’s safe, she’s fed, she’s loved, she’s learning. I must be doing something right.

I’ve come to believe that my worries about parenting are triggered by factors and individuals outside of me and Hope. There are the comments about what I let Hope “get away with” as we continue to work on big issues from her past. There are the side eyes I get because I’m apparently doing the most. Then there’s the passive aggressive commentary when I’m apparently doing the least.

I try to stay inward focused on Hope’s needs just so that I can tune out the noise. The noise doesn’t add any meaningful input into my life or parenting. It does serve to further breakdown whatever confidence I might exude on any given day. It makes me question the things I absolutely know I got right and cry more over the things I wonder if I screwed up royally.

What’s interesting about the criticism is that it rarely offers a suggestion for a better way to do anything or if the commenter might pitch in to help. Sometimes they offer suggestions, but they aren’t helpful because the offering is made without tons of nuanced information about my and Hope’s journey through trauma and adoption. So it really is just noise.

Today I am sitting in a conference room in the mid-west in a meeting away from Hope. Today she is out of school. Nanny 1 has left for the day and the other nanny won’t be in until this evening. Hope is “Home Alone.”

homealone

Hope has food.

She has a list of chores and activities.

Appropriate PPV movies were purchased this morning.

The crockpot is going for dinner.

I will call to check on her throughout the day.

Hope’s got an emergency contact list and access to two building concierges who can help out if necessary.

She’s 13 and will be home alone for maybe 10 hours. She will likely sleep 4 of them easily.

I did play a bit of resource Cirque du Soleil trying to have someone there to entertain/watch her today. My machinations didn’t work, and so she’s home today alone.

And you know what?

She’s going to be fine.

Are we both a little nervous? Yep, because I’m not downtown; I’m 1200 miles away.

Am I confident that the likelihood is small that she will burn the condo building down or some other cataclysmic event will occur? Yeah, I’m pretty confident.

Do I think by the 3rd check in call/Google hangout that she’s going to go all snarkily, “ Mom, geesh, don’t you have something to do?” Yep. And I will smile and tell her I’ll call her back later.

And do I think that she will be happy to see Nanny 2 this evening? Yep.

Will I celebrate her major achievement in demonstrating teen responsibility when I get home tomorrow? Yep, like a boss (provided the condo building is still standing)!

explosion570

Do I wish things had worked out differently? Yeah, but they didn’t.

Does any of this make me a bad mother? No, I’m pretty confident it does not.

Parents make tough decisions with available resources all the time. It’s what parents do. I know through this journey as a new single mom that I have much more empathy for birth families and the challenges they may face along the way. Sometimes things go really, really wrong. I’m fortunate to have resources, to understand systems, to be able to pull things together to fill most of my gaps. My heart breaks for those without those resources and ability to navigate the rocky landscape; it’s easy to see how a cascade of bad, tragic things can happen.

So instead of internalizing the critiques, staying pissy about them, and finding ways of “punishing” those who poke my mom’s eye, I’m going to send out some energy to other moms, new moms, adoptive moms and any kind of moms who need it. You’re doing fine. You’re making tough decisions, some will be great, and some will suck. You will triumph, and you will stumble. I hope that you don’t experience or internalize the negative criticism floating around about your parenting and that your would-be critics think to ask how might they help you be more successful rather than point out your perceived flaws. The former would be so much more productive than the latter.


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.


“Technically…”

Very brief phone call with Hope tonight.  Foster family has taken in a new sibling group with some very little ones.  Hope was explaining who she was talking to on the phone to the 3 year old when she said:

“She’s adopting me, so she’s kind of my mom.  Well, technically, she’s my mom.”

My heart did back flips while I played it cool on the phone.  It was just a few short weeks ago when she said calling me mom was weird because she had never called anyone that before.  Now, she’s calling me that as a descriptor.  She hasn’t called me mom directly yet, but I have hope that she will, likely sooner rather than later.

What an unexpected delight after a crappy day of writing.  A day where a small flaw in the data rendered four hours of dissertation writing nearly useless.  Listening in on Hope telling someone that I’m her mom is the perfect ending to this day.

Love that kid!


Grammy for the Win

Amazing how a week and a half makes a difference in this life.  Honestly, it is a testament to how much emotional upheaval is involved in this life change; the emotional swings are ridiculous.  I may not be hormonal from pregnancy, but I figure I’m just as emotional as any pregnant lady.

So, as I wait for the ICPC, prep for Hope’s upcoming 16 day visit, and plan for my adoption shower, new information is emerging about my daughter.  It is tough reading about what she’s been through.  During our visit a few weeks ago, Hope shared things that I hadn’t been told at that point.  I kept my negative reactions to a minimum because I didn’t want to do or say anything that would be perceived as rejection by Hope.  But I’ve stewed inside.

I’ve been angry that someone could treat a child the way Hope was treated.  I have vigilante fantasies about slowly hurting the people who have hurt her. Hey, just being honest, here.   I’m heartbroken that she’s struggled so much to cope and learn skills to deal with her trauma, loss and grief.  I feel guilty because I’m peeved that some of these details weren’t shared with me before hand or were just characterized quite differently; I hate that somewhere in the emotional swirl that I feel like I was duped.  It wouldn’t have made any difference in knowing that Hope and I were a match; I’ve known she was the one nearly from the first time I saw her picture.  I just wish that agency folks could be more transparent sometimes.

I have a lot of self-doubt about whether I can be the type of parent that I aspire to be.  I have confidence that I can draw on being a little older, a little wiser and a decent skill-tool box to be a good parent.  I’m relieved that even though much of this path seems so lonely—like echo in the darkness at Luray Caverns lonely—that I do have a loving family and friends who are eager to support me.  Even and especially the same Grammy last week that I wanted to banish to a remote island somewhere.

About a month ago I wrote a little bit about practicing grace during this transition.  It’s hard; it’s really hard because everything feels so important, so dramatic, so difficult, so deeply personal and so very emotional, and this is true for the very high, happy times and the heartbreaking, low times.  It takes a lot of deep reaching to consistently practice grace, and some days I simply fall short because I’ve just run out of capacity.

And this is where Grammy swoops in with her super cape this morning.  We’ve been trading emails for the last day or so about Hope, her visit, the registry and just stuff.  We’ve been pretty tender with each other since our fallout last week—we know that new, much needed barriers were created, but it’s almost like we still aren’t sure where those barriers are yet.  That’s probably because they are still in flux and the lines will move again over time.  This is the way of mothers and daughters sometimes, and the irony that Hope and I will likely soon be like this is not lost on me.  Anyhoo, I told her that I was just so angry and hurt reading about Hope’s history in these new documents and trying to think of strategies that will help Hope and me get through the transition.

Grammy writes back:

Hope will be a journey of the heart for all of us… I’m already praying mightily for the breaking of the familial curses in her family.  My uncle always prayed for a blessing over our family for the generations to come, not just those in his time, but those to come and that applies even to the adopted.  And how do I know that?  I’m adopted into God’s family.

I’m a believer, though sometimes the tenor of conversations about faith in the adoption community feel odd to me, maybe because they are often wrapped in a conservatism that I reject.  You can best believe I’ve spent a lot of knee time with God this year, and I know that my favorite associate pastor at my church probably thinks I should book an appointment at altar call on Sundays, given how many times I’ve sought her out to pray me through this dissertation and adoption.  But it was something about Grammy’s relating Hope’s adoption to our adoption into the kingdom that resonated with me and brought me great comfort today.

Hope and I will be ok; we’ll muddle through.  My family is blessed, and my own little family will be blessed. I imagine that the blessing will come with all the skills I need (I’ll still need to learn to use them) with a heaping side of grace.  God adopted me; I’ll be just fine.


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