Tag Archives: Parent

I Got 99 Problems, But Some Folks…

I think everyone knows and understands that some folks come into your life for a lifetime and others only for a season.  I’ve found that during my times of extraordinary personal growth, I either leave some seasonal folks behind or we just drift apart.  I’d have to say that adoption and dissertation writing represent periods of crazy growth.

For the most part, I have had a solid core of support from friends and family during this journey.  It has not always been easy; there have been moments that have reduced me to tears because we are all navigating new terrain.  The dissertation journey has not been quite as rocky since I’ve been in school for several years; we’ve all got a rhythm with the school thing.   Most of the challenging moments have stemmed from my adoption journey, which falls into a weird, abstract blind spot for many people. People don’t seem to just say “congrats” like they would to pregnant women.   I’m adopting an older child, and since there’s no pregnancy, the whole thing can be more conceptual for lots of folks (thank God no one is rubbing my belly).  I get it, but “congrats” would still be a nice response sometimes.

What has been challenging is when my disclosure that I am adopting an older child is met with:

Are you sure about an older kid?  They are so much trouble.

You know you could/should reconsider having your own child.

Have you thought about surrogacy?

What about infant adoption?

Are you infertile?

Why have you given up hope?

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What the what???  Yeah.  All up in my grill.  Other deeply personal rationalizations I have about my life, hey, you want to hear about those too? Oh let me get out my calendar so we can discuss my last menses while we’re at it.

Some of these questions are well-intended.  Some are just out of genuine concern, others are just damn nosey.  But, I know they aren’t malicious.  One person even suggested that my plans to not have bio kids was most unfortunate because I’m smart and cute and should pass those genes on to my own kid (there’s that pesky “own” distinction again).  Um, ok.  Some people strangely assume that my decision making is based on nothing, just nothing and they attempt to school me on the challenges of adoption, that I should avoid older child adoption or even make the choice to be childless.  One person attempted this kind of school session during a recent happy hour.  I’m sad to report that she was injured as I was raising my “You’d better stay in your lane, crazy chick” shield.

Life at the moment is pretty complicated.  I’m waiting for the elusive Institutional Review Board approval for my dissertation study.  The adoption process is involving conference call on top of conference call, and it also requires a level of vulnerability that I’ve never before experienced.  The day job is demanding.  The bills have to be paid; dry cleaning picked up and dropped off, and wait–what the devil is that growing on the broccoli in the fridge?  It is crazy busy; there’s a lot to do and in the words of Michelle Obama, the one thing I don’t do well is answer stupid questions about my rationale to become a parent through adoption or to parent an older adoptive kid.  As if I owe anyone an explanation anyway!

The adoption process reminds me to be thoughtful about the company I keep.  I’ve got a lot going on, and I don’t have time for a bunch of silly foolishness.  I am viewing life through a prism of impending parenthood, and frankly I’m fanatically consumed with protecting the health and well-being of my Hope Kid.  Hope Kid has already been through enough crap; Hope Kid doesn’t need folks around who doubt my reasoning for wanting him/her or second guessing why I want to be a parent at all.

I know that my nearest and dearest will still ask some uncomfortable questions and not everyone will agree with the decisions I am making and will make.  That’s cool, it’s even allowed.  But Team AdoptiveBlackMom needs supportive folks.  It’s ok, to disagree with me, but I need folks around me who will help me be the best parent I can be and who won’t waste time with a bunch of crazy mess about whether I should be a parent at all or how I should go about achieving that goal.   Totally baffled and disturbed by this life choice to the point where your mouth is burning, just burning to question me?  That’s cool, but please see yourself to the door, our season on this life journey has come to a close.  I won’t allow that conflict to be one of my 99 problems.

 Oh you think it’s bad now?  I haven’t even met Hope Kid yet!  Just know that when I do, my inner Momma Bear will be epic! Epic, I tell you!


The First No

Shortly after the agency sent me info on the child I am currently pursuing (aka Hope Kid), I got an email from the agency about another child that my social worker mentioned a month prior.  This child became a point of interest for my social worker and the agency because I was open to taking a kid who self-identified somewhere on the LGBT spectrum.  That self id is not a big deal for me, but I know it would be a big deal for some other folks.  Who you love or how you gender identify isn’t really a big thing for me.  Live and let live.  I just want a kid who I can help reach their full potential and who will help me reach mine.  I want to be a mom.

 So, I open up the email and read and stared at the picture  Then I sat looking at the screen, waiting for something magical to happen because, well, the previous email I received was like opening a present that had sparklies and unicorns and rainbows.  Why didn’t that happen with this profile?

I’d heard from some folks that you would know when you saw your kid.  It didn’t mean that you would get that kid, but that you might have some kind of cosmic connection to a kid whose profile you received.  How was it possible that I felt that the first time I got a profile, which happened to be for Hope Kid?  I dismissed it when I first felt that feeling (it really defies words…except sparklies, unicorns and rainbows).  I figured it couldn’t possibly be real; it really must just be the excitement of getting the first profile.

I’d also been warned that the opposite might happen.  That I’d get a profile, and I would feel compassion, but no attachment, no cosmic anything.  Nothing, nada, zilch.  It happened, and I could only feel guilt and shame because I didn’t feel any anything more than compassion and it wasn’t enough.  How could I not want this kid?  My social worker thought it might be a perfect match; my agency agreed, and the child’s social worker was over the moon with my homestudy and calling my agency repeatedly.  And here all I could do was send my agency’s follow up calls to voicemail, close my office door and cry because, well, clearly I was an awful, horrible person who was seemingly a match for an amazing kid, and I could barely manage more than a mumble.   I was hiding from my own cell phone because rejecting this kid was unthinkable, and now it was my fault that this kid would not have a forever home.

Oh yeah when I do guilt and shame, I go hard.  I mean all the way there.

So I tried to figure out if there was something…anything there that I could and should see that everyone else apparently saw in the tea leaves.  Every child has value; every life has meaning.  Maybe I just needed to dig for it.  I did have a lot of questions about this child, and I dutifully sent them off to her social worker.  Maybe there would be a sparkly unicorn in the answers that came back to me.  There was no unicorn.  But I did learn that this child has some significant issues that I am not sure I could handle even if a giant unicorn with a sparkly leprechaun riding atop showed up to take me to work each morning where there would be a pot of gold sitting on my desk.  And yet, she was beautiful and lovely and needs a home.  But she wasn’t my kid.   She just wasn’t.

And I had to say no.  And I had to do it clearly and firmly.  No one, especially not the child, would benefit from me pussyfooting around a soft no when I knew it was a firm one.  And in my heart I knew it was a firm no from the moment I opened that email.

I cannot speak for others’ adoption journey, but I cannot think that many of us consider saying no to kids.  Isn’t that why we’re doing this?  Because we want to be moms and dads?  How could we say, “No, that’s too much for me, and for whatever reason, I do not feel connected to this child?”  Rejection is horrible, and one of my biggest personal fears has always been rejection.  I feel like the lowest of the low because I feel like I was the one doing the rejecting.  And I know it is more complicated than that, and that I can easily also say that I knew she wasn’t my child, but I still had to say no.

I’m not quite sure when I will recover from having to call my agency with my decision.  I know I have to forgive myself, and that my getting out of the way hopefully clears the path for her to find her true forever home, but damn.

It sucks.  Royally.

When you’re going through this process, the trainers and social workers all talk a lot about the resilience of the children.  No one talks about the would-be-parents’ resilience.  I know I’ll get over having to say no, but I will not forget it or any of the emotions attached to it.  I have learned that what I felt with Hope Kid was real, which is super cool, and it makes me happy.  I do not know if I’ll feel it with other profiles, and I do not know if I will have to say no in the future.  I have told the agency that I do not want to see other profiles until I see what happens with Hope Kid.  I have found it is much easier being on the receiving end of rejection than it is to be on the delivering end.

And I guess that is an important personal lesson for me.  I know that I am resilient enough to face one of my worse fears.  I know I will be heartbroken if it does not workout between me and Hope Kid, but I do not see myself saying no to this match and  that brings me some comfort.

A friend calls these experiences my version of labor pains.  I don’t know about that (I don’t know nothing about birthing no baby!), but it does hurt.  But it will pass.  It’s just another part of the journey.


The Cult of the Support Group

So recently, I lay awake one night fretting about the lack of folks to talk to about the adoption process.  I’ve read books and found them to be useful, but pretty dry.  My agency is really, really into promoting what I call the Cult of the Support Group.  Ok, ok, I got it, and I needed something a bit more interactive than the books, so in the wee hours of the night, I booted up the laptop in search of a web-based source of support.

Search terms….

  • Adoption support
  • Older child adoption support
  • Single parent adoption support

And so the searches went.  I discovered a few pretty vibrant support communities.  With a few keystrokes, I registered for sites and asked for permission to join other sites.  Current anxiety attack sated, I drifted back off to sleep.

The next morning I found acceptance into one group on a social media site.  Awesome!  Grabbing some java, I settled in to read posts and blogs for a while.  All good stuff, until I slammed into some major points of difference that left me feeling some kind of way.

  • No one on these sites looked like me (where are the other People of Color (POCs) who are adopting?).
  • So very few adoptive parents adopted domestically.  I’m sure there are lots of similar issues but there are a lot of different issues as well.
  • Most of the posters were very religiously conservative in ways that don’t align with my own world view.

I felt like I shared part of the experience but was still left out of the group on a number of levels.  Oh it wasn’t them.  It was me.

Was my major contribution to the support group conversation really going to be serving as some kinda expert about hair care for their adoptive girls from African countries with curly, tightly coiled hair?  Where are the threads about nurturing whole-self-identity, inclusive of racial identity of our children?  What am I supposed to say on this site about being perfectly fine if my kid comes to the realization that he/she is gay or believes they are a gender that is different than their biological sex when clearly that position is not going to be tolerated in this support group?  Is this a space where I can safely ask about parenting for progressive, left leaning Christians, like myself?  Is this a space where I can talk about my fears of raising my would-be Black son in a world where he will be viewed as threatening while walking home from the 7-11 with a Slurpee and some candy because he doesn’t have the privilege of just being where he is, doing what he’s doing?

I’m not really feeling like it’s that kinda space.  And I’m not an online hair consultant, though my hair always looks good! (You betta werk!)

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Now I work on diversity issues as a part of my day job, so yeah, issues of race, racial identity and culture have deep meaning for me.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t participate in other realms; frankly I LIVE in all other realms, but I bring this part of me to that space.  It’s a part of who I am.

My adoption agency has encouraged me to plug into support groups and get connected with people who are sharing this experience.  I’m trying.  And I know that this post highlights my dilemma with just one group I stumbled over in the middle of the night.  But I haven’t found a group (on ground or online) where I don’t feel limited or silent  or even invisible because I hardly see anyone who looks like me and shares some critical experiences with me.  So, I’m diving back into other group searches that will hopefully produce what I need or at least more than the group I excitedly stumbled upon.  I realize I’m also going to have to moderate my expectations (seemingly an ongoing theme in the adoption process)  I’m not quitting the group that I found, but it is only meeting a slice of my need as a parent-in-waiting, and I anticipate that it will only address a slice of my actual parenting life.

New search terms….

  • Progressive Christian parenting
  • African Americans for adoption
  • POCs and adoption
  • Adoptive parents who are ok with maybe one day joining PFLAG

 


How it all started…

So, I wasn’t that little girl who dreamed of having kids.  I dreamed of having a great love and getting married and being married, but kids…well, there wasn’t this yearning to give birth.  I thought I would be a mom, but I never felt like I had to have a biological kid.  By my 20s, I figured I’d adopt at some point.  In my early 30s I swore to my mom that I’d totally adopt if I hadn’t had a biological child by the time I was 35.  As I slid into my late 30s–having conveniently skipped past 35 neither with a biological kid or with a hankering to end my carefree lifestyle–I found myself in a relationship with someone I wouldn’t dream of having a bio kid with.  In fact, within months of starting our relationship I RAN to get an IUD to make sure that procreating with this dude did not happen.

My flawed rationale for being in this relationship could probably be the subject of a whole ‘nother blog, but just suffice to say, I knew having a biological child with him was out of the question.

As some point he found himself in a bit of a legal problem, and I found myself furious.  I didn’t care about him or his problems; I was terrified that possibly marrying him and his problems would prevent me from adopting a child.   We fought about it; he tried to convince me it didn’t matter.  But I knew it would.

That’s when I knew.   Adoption was my path, and I’d probably do it alone.

It would be another three years after the breakup, after a health scare that made me contemplate my mortality and after finishing the coursework for my doctorate that I leaped into this long, emotional journey to motherhood.

Did I mention I’m working on my dissertation while pursuing adoption?

Yeah, I’m an overachiever.  Totally.

So, it’s been eight months since I started the process.

I took my PRIDE classes.  I filled out the paperwork.  I went for my physical and was furious about having a cholesterol test (I don’t know  why, but it irked me to high heaven).  I freaked out when I found out I didn’t sign my fingerprint card properly.  I nervously sat through my home study visits, even crying through half of the first one.  I visualized me and my kid doing stuff in the future all the time.

I cried when my parents gave away some of my childhood books knowing I was quietly expecting.  I sat perplexed when a classmate excitedly exclaimed, “You’re going to be a single mom!” I was just planning to be a mom.  I realized that to everyone who would meet me after the adoption would just assume that I was a SINGLE BLACK MOM and all the possible stereotypes that tag along with that particular character.  I continue to struggle with all these new identities.

I filled out match forms where I anguished about saying no to bunches of possible family matches because I didn’t want to cope with various types of medical issues or behavioral issues.  I secretly have moments of guilt about saying I didn’t want a White child, despite the fact that I really don’t want a White child.  I fretted about painting the “room formerly known as the guest room.”

I cringe every time someone tells me how awesome it is that I was adopting some poor kid or how grateful that kid will be to have been adopted by someone like me.  Ugh.  I also cringe inside while smiling on the outside when a friend says my journey is great, but she’s still holding out hope to have her own child.  I know she means bio, but my kid will be my own kid.

I soared when I finally met an adoptive Black mom in a support group.  I have desperately needed a role model.  It’s a lonely path to trudge for the SBF at the adoption agency.

I lay awake at night wondering about all sorts of possible child rearing scenarios: Natural hair vs. chemically treated?  Basketball vs. football vs. debate club?  Sex talks…boys and/or girls. Public school vs. private school?  Having to shop at Hollister, American Eagle and some other ungodly tween/teen clothing store.  Growing feet and increasing grocery bills.  I order books from the local library on all of these things and never read them because I’m working on a dissertation, remember?

It’s some weird form of mayhem  And despite being one of the most challenging times of my life, it is hands down the best time of my life.  Really, it is the best time of my life.  I’m going to be a mom.

About a month ago, I got an email from the agency.  It was the first one about a possible match.  I closed my office door, opened the email and fell hopelessly in love with this kid.  So done.

So, now I’m pursuing this kid.  The adoption recruiter and the foster mom have both missed conference calls that sent me into fits of tears.  I believe this will work out,.  But whew, it is hard.  It’s really hard.

And its still the best time of my life.


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