Why #OscarsSoWhite Is More Than Just a Hashtag In My Home

Did any Black people win last night, mommy?

This was the first question out of my daughter the morning after the Golden Globe awards. Thankfully, I could answer yes, knowing that at the age of seven, she would be content with only one actress winning a Globe, and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award going to a Black man.

You may be shocked that a seven year old is even thinking about such things, but representation of her race is important to my daughter, and it should be. I’ve taught her that, because I can’t give her “blackness” (forgive me for lack of a better description) so she has to search for it elsewhere – her friends, her activities, her entertainment, her neighbourhood – all of these areas of her life serve as surrogate racial models for my daughter because I can’t. I wish I could, but I knew before I adopted her the only thing I can do is teach her as best I can to watch and learn from other sources in addition to what I regurgitate for her from my own research. It matters to her to see herself, in both her race and her adoption, represented in the real world.

In the past six years, I’ve pushed through many moments of my own discomfort to try to learn about struggles that I have never experienced as a white women protected with a coat of white privilege. I’ve tried to educate myself as much as I possibly can on what white privilege is and what I, as a white person, can do to become an ally to people of colour in ways that people of colour have shared are relevant to them.

As a stay-at-home mother initially, and now a work-at-home mother, often my simplest and most readily-available form of me-time recreation has been watching movies. I love movies. Especially the season of excellent quality films following Christmas up until summer blockbuster season. For six years, I’ve obsessively watched all Oscar-quality movies, made my own predictions, attempted to see all or most of the nominated performances and then watched the award shows and live-tweeted during those shows. I’ve voiced my disappointment over the lack of diversity both in Hollywood and in the nominations and winners of the awards, but I’ve never really done much more about it; armchair slactivism at its worst. I won’t lie – I’ve loved being a part of it all and didn’t really think I could do much more than just express my disappointment.

Until now.

This year, for the second year in a row, there are no Black actor or actress nominees. Nor Supporting Actor or Actress nominees. Not a single Black actor was deemed worthy of a nomination by a mostly white, male institution. Not many people of colour in general, in any category, for that matter. Yet The Academy figured they had it all balanced by contracting Chris Rock to host the show.

I’m pissed about it all.

Yet, I’m also to blame.

And so are you.

HEAR ME OUT, before you start rolling your eyes and complaining that Will Smith and his wife are just whining that he didn’t get a nomination.

We continue to support these award shows by watching them. That’s how they make money and what indirectly continues to feed the vicious circle of racism – we support movies featuring more white actors than people of colour in more white stories than stories about people of colour, we watch award shows to reward more of the white actors and actresses so they will continue to get more white parts in more white movies. What’s worse is that we also continue to complacently accept white actors playing characters who weren’t originally white.

No more.

I am not going to actively teach my daughter about racial equity with my words and then completely confuse her by exemplifying with my actions what white privilege is all about. I refuse to let her believe that it’s ok to watch award shows that disrespect the talent and effort of people of colour.

It’s not ok.

How can I look my daughter in the eye when she asks me the morning after the Oscars if any Black actors won and tell her “No, darling. There weren’t any nominated. But mommy still watched and enjoyed the show like I always have.”

I can’t do it.

I won’t do it.

And personally, I’d like to know how Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron, Hugh Jackman, Madonna, and even one of the Grand Poobahs of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, along with other Hollywood royal members are going to explain to THEIR children of colour how and why they supported an institution that doesn’t respect the efforts of their child’s race?

I can’t do that to my daughter nor can I disrespect the talented people of colour who put out high-quality work in Hollywood without the same opportunities or recognition that white people receive.

So, for the first time in my adult life, I will not be watching the Academy Awards this year.

(Those who know me or at least are friends with me on Facebook and read my frequent status movie reviews are going “WHOAAA!” right now, while the rest of you are probably going “Who gives a shit?” and that’s just fine by me.)

Going forward, I will also be choosing the films I spend money to watch with a far greater intention; I will be actively looking for movies that feature stories about people of colour, that star people of colour and are written and/or produced by people of colour.

Adopting my daughter helped open my eyes to my own white privilege and continuously forces me to confront it, own it and acknowledge it in my everyday life. I’m thankful every day for her presence in my life and I owe her and all people of colour to do what I can.

Oh sure, it may seem like no big deal to you, and in a harsh world of so many societal problems, some may be inclined to write off the importance of “a little gold statue”. Thankfully, I’ve also learned that just because something isn’t important to me, that doesn’t give me the right to invalidate its importance to others. Nor does it allow me to dismiss the greater societal issues behind that little gold statue. Everyone deserves recognition for a job well done – would we dismiss a teacher or doctor asking for equal recognition for equal work performance? Of course not. The Oscars may not matter to you, but it matters to the people who work at providing movies for entertainment. ALL of the people, not just the white ones.

My daughter knows how much I love movies and how Oscar night has been a VERY BIG DEAL for me in the past, so I’m making my stand in a way that I know is meaningful to her. I don’t expect my position to have any impact on Hollywood and their institutionalized racism, but quite frankly, I’m not doing it for them.

#OscarsSoWhite

 

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Happy Seventh Birthday To My Heart and Soul

12947_212396985184_849055_n[1]Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday.

Last year I wrote her this letter on my blog at YummyMummyClub.ca:

I’m saying goodbye to five.

The age of five, that is.

My Baby Girl is turning six this week, and reminds me every time I call her “Baby Girl” that she is NOT a baby, so PLEASE don’t call her that in public!

I don’t remember being six, and I’ve tried pretty hard. So, I decided instead to write my daughter a letter so that if she forgets what six was like, she can refer back to this:

Dear Darling (your sanctioned pet-name for me to use in public),

I wanted to bestow on you some kind of wisdom about how *I* felt about being six, and who I was at that age, but I guess at this stage of my life, mommy’s memory bank has purged some of the clutter to make room for other, more important stuff—like everything I can stuff in there about you.

So, I’m writing this letter to you to preserve forever who you are right now, as you turn six years old. I hope one day we can read this together, laughing and smiling as we remember what an incredible little girl you were and know from what I say here that you were always destined to become the amazing woman you will be then.

At six, my darling daughter, you still see the magic in the world—hold that tight for as long as you can. Keep asking all of your questions and continue finding the universe so full of wonder.

At six, you still love me the most-est and think that I am totally awesome . . . most of the time. Hold that tight for as long as you can also, ok? 

At six, you don’t know of the awful things that can and do happen in our world—I pray every night that you never learn of them.

At six, you are so full of confidence. You are the star of your own universe—and mine—and have no inner bully to contend with. I desperately hope that never changes.

At six, you are learning to read, and doing a damned fine job of it, especially when your father and I back off and let your fierce little determination force you to sound out your words independently. 

At six, you show very little interest in dolls of any sort. My inner Feminist is doing jumping-jacks. You prefer instead to savour your hour-per-day of iPad time playing Minecraft, or building towers with your blocks, or putting together train sets—but always doing all of this in some sort of costume that is usually a mash-up of lion-sporting-costume jewellery and a hula skirt.

At six, you still adore your big brother, but have discovered that he doesn’t always want to play children’s games with you anymore, because he is now a teenager. You have adapted by gaining his attention with pest-like shenanigans. I love your persistence and your ingenuity, despite the headaches the subsequent bickering with him causes me.

At six, you still don’t know what day it is or what time it is, and don’t really care. I know sometimes this frustrates me, but soon enough you will join the rest of the world in their obsession with time and its value, so for now I try to chillax a little and not let time control me so much either. 

At six, you are becoming funny, and I love it. Not toddler cutesy-pie kind of funny, but genuinely witty and intelligent funny. This thrills me almost as much as your spectacular reading does. 

At six, you are a messier eater now than you were as a baby. I have no explanation of why this is, but I have begun to buy stock in the various stain-remover companies. Sometimes your mucky face warms my heart and is super cute and I will kiss it no matter what goo is covering it. I’m sorry that at other times it frustrates me, but I know you will eventually (hopefully) become more tidy. You have no fear of getting dirty when you play, either, as your appearance demonstrates every day when I pick you up from school. Despite my grumblings, I’m actually proud that you are not prissy, like your mama.

At six, you are such an incredible dancer. Your love of moving your body to the beat shines through in your talent and the gigantic grin puffing those delicious cheeks every time you bounce off the sofa to bust a move around the room. 

At six, you still get really torqued up when you make mistakes, which simultaneously worries me and makes me ashamed because I know exactly where you learned to be a perfectionist. You don’t need to be perfect, my darling, you already are, even with your faults and mistakes. Go easy on yourself—this is what being human is all about. I hope that lesson comes sooner and easier for you than it has for me. 

At six, you are beginning to choose outfits that don’t make my eyeballs whine, and thankfully you finally understand that halter tops are inappropriate attire in January. 

At six, you are still learning that doing the opposite of what mommy or daddy asks does not mean you are in control. Conversely, mommy and daddy are also learning that control is not always necessary for good parenting. 

At six, you think that “pretty” means sparkles, fancy dresses, shoes, and a bow in your hair. I know you are so intuitive and observant that you will soon absorb the fact that beautiful is only partially about what you look like on the outside. I want you to continue knowing how gorgeous you truly are—inside and out.

At six, you are loud, but you come by it honestly—from your father. I have no idea where you get your shouty-ness from, but I love you even when my inner ears are numb.

At six, you are just starting to think about the hardships of your life prior to adoption, and the hardships that adoption may bring you later in life. As much as I wish I could, there is nothing I can do to stop the inevitable moments of sadness and anger that you will experience as you grow older and reflect on the circumstances of your life that brought you into mine. I promise to be here for you if you want to talk about it, or simply hold your hand, huggle you if you need to cry, and support you through any journey you need to take—emotionally or otherwise—to find peace with your adoption legacy. 

At six, you are a miracle, a spark, a gift. 

My heart expands with each of your birthdays. 

Happy Birthday my darling Baby Girl.  I hope you have your best year ever.

This year, I feel like that’s a hard one to top, frankly. Yet, I’m going to try.

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My Baby Girl (yes, we reached a compromise that I could still call her that in private and online, just not in front of her friends),

You are now seven years old. While many of the things I wrote about you on your sixth birthday are still the same – your wit, your charm, your amazing reading skills, your messy eating, your beauty, your dance abilities – some things have changed.

You have experienced hardships this past year that I had hoped you would never know, yet you have shown your brave resilience in your triumph over these hardships. Thank you for putting your trust in me to guide you through and for helping me get through them with you.

You have also become aware of some of the horrors of our world – you have learned what guns can do, what murder means, and sadly, experienced your first taste of overt racism. My heart aches for the wounds these lessons have inflicted on your sweet and tender heart, while at the same time loves you even more for refusing to let these painful events shadow your brilliant sparkling light.

You have become even more adamant about standing up for yourself, which I applaud, even when you are standing up to me and making me silently wish you weren’t always so strong and independent!

You have learned about the birds and the bees this year. Oh, I know some parents will be shocked by that, but inquisitive, bright children who grow up hearing the words “birth mother” will obviously want to know what “birth” means sooner rather than later, and that explanation just leads to more and more questions. Thank you for being so mature about the discussion and I only hope you continue to trust me with all your questions about sex and relationships.

Your love of crafts, doing artwork and creating inventions astounds me. The creativity that flows from you is something I wish I had outside of my play with words, but I guess we all have creativity in us somewhere and I adore how you express yours.

Your conversations about adoption and your birth mother are becoming exactly what many of the books I’ve read predicted they would. I understand your very deep need to fantasize her perfection and your reunion with her. I don’t feel jealousy during these chats, only heartache for you and how heavy your burden must be.

At seven, I am seeing glimpses of what you will be like as a teen. Sometimes I am a little frightened, I will admit, but I also see a girl who takes my words about self-respect and self-control very seriously, so I trust you will keep those words in your memory when we are apart.

Just recently I let you attend a birthday party without me present. I don’t think you know how hard that was for me, but I am trying to accept that as you grow older, I will need to let go more and more. I want so badly to protect you from anything and anyone that could harm you, but I also know that taking that job too seriously can also cause you harm. I want you to have the freedom to experience the world in your own way, without me always standing in front of you with my sword drawn and shield thrust forward. You are so intelligent and brave, I know you can do things without me and be just fine.

Happy birthday, my darling Baby Girl, my Captain Sassypants, my sun, my moon and my stars. I love you to infinity and back, infinity times. xoxo

Photo: Christine Cousins Photography

Photo: Christine Cousins Photography

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The Realities of Trans-Racial Adoption

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Every so often, parents via adoption are confronted with their own complete and utter inadequacy. Oh sure, biological parents are too, I know, but I’m talking that extra layer of baggage that our children carry around that we must also deal with regularly – the hurt and pain of their pre-adoption experiences that never leave them, no matter how much we love and care for them.

Two nights ago, Baby Girl awoke and without getting into the minutia of the situation, ended up having a typhoon-sized temper tantrum at midnight that lasted a full hour and woke up our entire household, if not our entire street. Yeah – THAT kind of tantrum.

It’s interesting in retrospect to analyze how her behavior reflects so much of what I’ve read in adoption psychology books, yet somehow in the moment – I am completely unable to see that, nor am I able to draw on my research about how to deal with her adoption/attachment-related behavioral challenges.

So, of course when the tantrum started, instead of recognizing that she was feeling fear and insecurity related to recent circumstances that were putting her in touch with her pre-adoption experiences, all I saw was a bratty little kid looking for attention at midnight and waking me and the rest of the family up to get it. So I snapped. I shouted at her and grounded her from TV – which is a consequence that punishes ME far more than her, trust me. I threw up my hands and enlisted Huzbo, even – who did the same thing as me.

Well, we quickly found out the next night that our strategy stank, when Baby Girl woke up at 1am and proceeded to behave in the exact same way as the night before, despite how much shit she had gotten into.

I began to throw out threats of more severe consequences, which only served to both upset and incense her further. Huzbo was far more furious than the previous night and it was in the middle of this complete shit-storm that I realized something: her behavior was not something she was trying to do against us. She was attempting to reach out for help to deal with feelings that she did not have the skills to verbalize for us. The threats we were throwing at her were not intimidating to her – we were giving her choices, and when given the choice between watching TV or receiving love and assurance if she could get it via screaming and crying – she would always throw TV to the wolves.

I suddenly remembered a line I had read somewhere:

It’s usually when they are behaving in a way that it’s hardest to love them that they need our love demonstrated the most.

So I crawled into bed with the screeching, snot-nosed cyclone of hurt that was my daughter and held her. Oh, she resisted at first – she’s a fierce little example of the “flight or fight” response that many children who were adopted demonstrate in stressful situations – but she soon calmed and I was able to speak gently with her and give words to the overwhelming feelings she was having. When she began to weep and her little body sagged down onto the bed beside me, I knew I had done the right thing and had made the correct assumptions about the sources of her seemingly unacceptable behavior.

Flash ahead to yesterday morning, where I was putting her hair in pigtails for the dance class she was going to. Out of nowhere came this question:

“Do you wish you had gotten a white baby in your tummy instead of me?”

(WHY do they always ask these kinds of questions when you’re either in a public bathroom or in a hurry to get somewhere?)

I assured her that even though I had tried to make a baby in my womb before we had started our adoption journey, it was not because that was my preference, but because it was just what parents usually did when they wanted to have a child. I attempted to make her understand that it wasn’t about what I wanted more – that it was simply what most people do, yet I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing her she wasn’t a consolation prize in my efforts to become a mother.

Never a child to leave it at just one zinger, she followed up with:

“Would you have liked it better if I had white skin?”

I got down on my knees and looked her in the eye and told I would NEVER want her to have white skin, because if she did, she wouldn’t be my Baby Girl. That her beautiful black skin was a part of who she is, and that we did not care what colour skin our child had when we were deciding to adopt. I assured her that we didn’t love her DESPITE of her black skin, but BECAUSE of it. That we embrace the differences between her and us, but we also feel a very deep connection to her that we might not feel if she had white skin, because she would be an entirely different person. I assured her that if we had wanted a white baby so badly, we most certainly would have adopted one.

This seemed to appease her, as she went off to dance class with no further questions, but the conversation has been sitting in my mind, rattling the cage ever since then.

Do white parents experience their children asking them if they’d prefer their kids to have black skin?

Of course not.

Do bio parents experience their children raging in the middle of the night because they are feeling a hard-wired pain that occurred when they were separated from the mother who gave birth to them?

Never.

Do trans-racial adoptive parents ever feel guilty that they brought a black child into a white family?

Often.

It’s a tough, heart-kicking job we signed up for, as trans-racial adoptive parents. I’m not sure we knew back then how agonizing it would be at times.

But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because at the end of the tantrum and questions – I’ve got the most remarkable, tough, strong, joyful, happy, intelligent, gorgeous, stubborn little person who calls me “mommy”.

Sadly, my Baby Girl is the one who has so much more to contend with.

 

Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

You may also like reading my blog posts at Conceived in my Heart on YummyMummyClub.ca – check it out!

 

Adoption Awareness is for EVERYONE

Hi everyone!

For those of you who don’t already know – I’m super excited to share that I’ve recently been hired by Erica Ehm’s Yummy Mummy Club online magazine to write a regular blog about adoption and blended families!

How COOL is that?

Please check out my most recent post about the fact that Adoption Awareness is not limited to only those who have or were adopted!

http://www.yummymummyclub.ca/blogs/jackie-gillard-conceived-in-my-heart/20131107/november-is-adoption-awareness-month

Adoption awareness is for EVERYONE!  There’s also a video that will be sure to leave you sniffling, so grab some tissues!   Share the post with everyone you know using the share buttons on the left column – sharing is caring!  And please feel free to leave me comments – I LOVE conversation!

Don’t worry – I will still be here writing adoption/race/blended family/crazy life of mine stories!  Obviously I won’t be writing the same stuff for each blog, so if you want to get all my posts, you can sign up to receive both of my blogs directly in your email inbox!

Thanks so much for your support!

The Journey

For my regular readers, just a warning that this post is a bit…darker and heavier than my usual posts.  Writing is therapy and I’ve needed to get this out for a long time.

For everyone else – there is cussing contained within.  Consider yourself warned.

The Journey

I don’t expect you to understand why I am who I am or why I am the kind of mother that I am.

I don’t expect you to know what it is like to spend ten years trying to become a mother, spanned over 2 different husbands and a marriage that fell apart partially because I couldn’t conceive, or to have not 1 but 2 boyfriends tell you that they weren’t sure they could marry you because you might not be able to make babies.

I don’t expect you to know the paralyzing fear of attempting to conceive in my own body, knowing that everything I did or didn’t do could potentially harm a baby growing inside of me because of my own medical conditions.  I don’t expect you to sympathize that I often wonder if that fear is the reason why I didn’t conceive.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the bewildered astonishment of a positive home pregnancy test after a “one last time” interlude with my estranged ex-husband.  I don’t expect you to feel the disbelief of that pink plus sign, after 1 failed IVF and 2 failed IUI treatments.  I don’t expect you to get that I had to race to my brother’s house with the pee stick in my hand to ask him if HE thought it said “Positive” and then even when he agreed that he too saw the pink plus,  I still had to go to the local E/R to get a blood test done,  because my own pee was not trustworthy enough.

I don’t expect you to understand the devastation one week later, when I saw those spots of blood, knowing what they meant but still having to return to that E/R to wait 6 hours to be told that the sac was no longer attached to my uncooperative uterus.  I don’t expect you to grasp the horror of feeling and then seeing that unattached sac exit my body.

I don’t expect you to know what it is like to fall in love with someone who tells you AFTER you’ve fallen that he’s had a vasectomy when the only thing you’ve ever wanted your whole life was to be a mother.  Or to wonder if your decision to stay with him and pursue a reversal is a decision that will forever prevent you from becoming a mother.  Or to know that the semi-failure of the reversal coupled with your own failed fertility equated to three more failed IVF’s.  I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to deal with all of these fertility failures, while having the evidence of that man’s fertile-on-the-first-try first marriage living in your home half of the time.  I don’t expect you to sympathize with trying to hide the shame and fear and embarrassment and pain of your own union’s infertility from that evidence so his mother won’t be even more smug than she already is in her thinking that SHE is the only one who will EVER provide a genetic link to your husband, while telling that link that he is his father’s only “real” child when she found out about our plans to adopt.

I don’t expect you to know about the urge to scream with rage from the physical pain of the daily multiple injections of drugs and hoping upon hope that the reports you read are wrong about the fact that they can cause cancer.  I don’t expect you to get the disgust of waking up soaked in your own hot-flash sweat from those high-dose hormones or the daily blood tests from veins that never gave up blood easily before fertility treatments, never mind how they began to look like veins of a heroin addict after 3 months of almost-daily torture to them.  I don’t expect you to know the initial shame and embarrassment that soon turns to numb indifference after a different person probes my most private area on a daily basis. I don’t expect you to get how the cocktail of hormones made me cry at the slightest provocation, yet also created volcanic anger explosions for the most minimal of offenses.

I don’t expect you to know the disappointment of finding out that your eggs and your husband’s sperm, and then a strangers sperm, failed to create an embryo, and then failed to create an embryo that bothered to stay alive long enough to put back inside your uterus, yet have the doctor put 4 dead embryos inside of you anyway in case your uterus could magically awaken the dead and create a baby out of those useless microscopic dead cells.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the agony of the Two Week Wait between the transfer of embryos into my uterus and the morning 2 weeks later when the pregnancy blood test is done, all the while begging those microscopic assholes to please, please, please stick to my uterus and dig themselves a comfy little nest for the next nine months.

I don’t expect you to know what it feels like to wait that morning at home alone after the blood test is drawn, sitting with the phone in your hands, dying for it to ring, but terrified it will ring and wondering why the FUCK it hasn’t rang yet and trying to find something to occupy your mind while you wait out those hours when nothing on this earth could possibly do that.

I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to get that phone call alone, yet at the same time be so glad that nobody is there to witness your ugly cry breakdown on your hands and knees on the floor after you throw the phone against the wall when you hang up.

I don’t expect you to feel the crushing, tidal-wave blow of hearing “Your blood test was negative” from the IVF nurse on the phone, not once, not twice, but SIX times over a 10 year eternity.

I don’t expect you to applaud the teeth marks in my tongue from not telling that same IVF nurse to fuck off with her sympathetic voice when she delivered that news each time.

I don’t expect you to feel bad for me about the wasted loss of all that money spent for NOTHING.

I don’t expect you to understand what it is like to grow up your whole life believing that one of the world’s expectations of you as a woman is to have a baby, to become a mother, and then to know that you are a failure as a woman when you fail to create and produce that baby for motherhood.

I don’t expect you to feel the fury towards Mother Nature for making you suffer through a period every single month for NOTHING if you can’t even have a baby, long after you’ve accepted that you’re not getting pregnant ever, and wishing your entire female reproductive system would just piss off.

I don’t expect you to appreciate actually looking forward to menopause just to finally feel like you really are like other women.

I don’t expect you to empathize with the bitter resentment felt for the man who expected me to plan HIS child’s birthday party one week after the news of our final failed IVF in Europe, because he HAD a kid and could never truly comprehend my pain.   I don’t expect you to get that I really wanted to fall to the floor kicking and screaming as we walked past the Baby section that day in Toys R Us while looking for a gift for HIS child.

I don’t expect you to comprehend that even now, even after my acceptance of our infertility and the absolute knowledge that my daughter was meant to be with me, even with my acceptance that I will NEVER feel a baby I helped create grow and move inside of me, never see that baby leave my womb and watch it take its first gulp of air, first scream, first look at the world – even NOW, I feel a tiny little stab in my soul when I see a pregnant woman or a baby or read about a pregnancy or see a newborn baby picture.  I don’t expect you to get that while I am at peace with my destiny, there are some wounds and scars that will never completely heal.

I don’t expect you to understand that FINALLY becoming a mother completed me, despite those wounds and scars.  My daughter gave me peace.  And yes, she is MY daughter.  She has a father, but she is mine, and I don’t expect you to understand that, either.  She provided the balm for a 10 year quest that nearly destroyed me more than once because I had no comprehension during the journey that she was my destination.

I don’t expect you to comprehend that I wake, live, eat, breathe, exist for my daughter.  My love for my daughter consumes me.  She is the meaning of my life and the purpose of my existence.  I don’t expect you to understand that any harm to her, or Dear Sweet God above NO!, the loss of her, would destroy me.   That is not drama, it is fact.  I don’t expect you to comprehend why my thoughts would even go there because I don’t expect you to understand that I am too old, too emotionally spent and too financially drained to endure the journey of another adoption.  I don’t expect you to empathize with why I worry about harm coming to her, after everything I’ve been through to finally be her mother.  Nor do I expect you to get my fear of my own death before she becomes an adult, as she would also be destroyed.  No, that is not ego.  I simply understand that there are only so many hurts a young, beautiful heart can possibly survive, and hers is at capacity.

I  don’t expect you to understand that every person, place, thing, new environment, new experience is a potential threat to my daughter, in my mind.  Although it may not seem that way sometimes, I try my very hardest to not allow the world’s threats to stand in the way of allowing her to experience the world as a beautiful, educational, magical place without fear.   I don’t expect you to understand that if my choice is between keeping her safe or hurting someone else’s feelings, she will ALWAYS stay safe, and that I don’t really care if you don’t see the same risks to her safety that I see.

I don’t expect you to comprehend the unbelievable pressure I put on myself to be a perfect mom, all the while knowing that such a thing doesn’t even exist, because  I waited, I begged, I pleaded, I cried, I prayed, I suffered and I was finally rewarded with her, so I must demonstrate my gratitude and deservedness by being the best mother I can be at all times, even though I’m not and I can’t.

I don’t expect you to know or understand any of these things.  This is my journey…

Today, and Every Day

Four years.

Four years since I first looked into those dark eyes and was lost forever.

Four years since the Magistrate signed the papers declaring me her mother.

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How can four years feel like four seconds and forty years all rolled into one?

What a ride those four years have been.

I used to think parenting was about teaching your children –

four years have taught me that I am the student.

She is the balm that soothes my wounds.

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One gentle touch from her can make my day, one shoved-away attempt at affection can ruin it.

She is my world.  My destiny.  My life.

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I never expected motherhood to be so incredibly all-consuming, so powerful, so hard, yet so full of joy.

I never expected any of this.

Yet I’m still surprised daily.

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Surprised at my own motherly instinct to protect her, no matter what, at any expense.

Surprised at how quickly and easily she can push every emotional button I have, some of them unknown prior to motherhood.

Surprised at how easily my heart (and eyes) well up with pride at moments I never thought I’d experience before I became a mother.

Surprised at the explosions of love and affection that slam into me over and over and over again.

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So on this day, I celebrate her.  I celebrate this life that brought me to her.  I celebrate the gratitude I feel for having the privilege of knowing her, let alone being her mother.  I mourn her losses that brought her to me.  I mourn my losses that brought me to her.

Yet, my losses all seem worth it.

I know hers are not and it’s hard for me to acknowledge that if I had the power to make her losses disappear, I would also be making my presence in her life disappear, but I would do it if I could.  For her.  It’s so hard to speak of all my love and joy without acknowledging the pain that brought me that love and joy.

That’s the legacy of adoption, if you are honest about it.

However, today, we will celebrate.

We love her.  She loves us.  We are a family, and that is something to be celebrated.

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Today is our day to celebrate a myriad of circumstances, good and bad, that came together to turn four incomplete people into a complete family.

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The Million Dollar Question

So it happened already.

I knew it would at some point, but last year it took all the way until April.

What happened?  The question.  The one that families via transracial adoption wait for all the time:

“Why’s your mom white?”  Yes.  Said with the italics emphasis on white, in a tone that didn’t sound too impressed.

The little black girl who asked the question had followed my daughter over to me, where I stood waiting for the bell to ring before I left my post watching Baby Girl in the enclosed play yard.  The girl was friendly and engaged me in conversation, so I asked what her name was.  When she told me, Baby Girl proudly pointed at me and stated: “She’s my mom!”.

That’s when the confused look appeared in the girl’s narrowed eyes, as she scrutinized me.

I knew when I signed up for transracial adoption that these moments would come.  We’ve had them before, we’ll have them again.  I knew this little girl’s curiosity was innocent and natural.  I knew this was an opportunity to educate.

But I still wanted to hit “rewind” and somehow make that little girl NOT ask that question.

I wanted to save my Baby Girl from having to answer a question that she shouldn’t have to answer.  I wanted to protect her from the burden of explaining her most painful detail, because she already has to carry the burden of her adoption every moment of every day.

Adoption is such a wonderful, beautiful, life-enriching way to create a family.

Except for the adoptee, sometimes.  This was one of those times.

It was in that moment, when the other black girl who obviously has black parents or at least black family made it obvious that she couldn’t understand another black child having anything but black family, that I truly felt my daughter’s burden.  How she must have felt so segregated from her own race at that moment, because of me.  I felt guilty, almost, for adopting her and involuntarily subjecting her to a lifetime of questions and feelings of not being like everyone else.   At that moment, I longed to be black, despite the fact that we teach our children to accept, respect and embrace differences, simply to make that question disappear.

I looked at my daughter and saw the worry in her eyes – would the little girl make fun of her for having a white mother?  Would she be mean to her for having been adopted?  I asked Baby Girl if she wanted to answer the girl’s question, and she started in, providing an entirely different response than the ones that we had practised together for times like these.

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She explained to the girl that she had been born in South Africa and her mom had been born in Canada.  True enough.  Then she told the girl that she came out of (insert birth mother’s name) tummy.

The little girl was understandably confounded.

I told my daughter that she was right and had made a good start with her answer, and then gently offered to help her explain further, as she was very nervous and had stopped speaking when she started to stumble over what to say next.

I explained to the girl that my daughter was made in another woman’s tummy than mine, and that woman was a black woman, which is why Baby Girl has black skin.  I went on to state that the woman who made her was her birth mother, but she could not be a mommy to our daughter, so somebody else had to be her parents, and my husband and I had adopted her, which means we became her parents without her growing in my tummy, and now we were a family.  I added that families don’t have to all look like each other to be a family and I wanted to continue, but the girl’s eyes were starting to glaze over.

She said nothing when I stopped.  Just looked at me for a long minute, and I don’t really know if what I said had made sense for her.

I asked my daughter after school if the girl said anything more to her, but she had not, and I think Baby Girl and I were both relieved.

I also asked how she felt about the girl’s question and my answer, and she told me “embarrassed”.  I asked her why, and she explained, not for the first time, that it made her feel like she was different from everybody else.

I get it.

She is.

My challenge as her parent is to help her see that this different that she feels and that everybody else sees, is not a bad thing, not something to feel embarrassed or ashamed of.

Sometimes it’s hard to pull what’s in your heart out into the open world and get everyone to feel it along with you, isn’t it?

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