My Child’s Thoughts on Menopause

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Yesterday, I was rushing around to get out the door by a certain time and as is usually the case when you’re stressed and time-challenged, the process made my body temperature increase. I removed the sweater I was wearing and said to Captain Sassypants: “Phew! I’m getting hot and sweaty!”

Her response?

“I hate to say this, mommy, but maybe you’re getting the HOT SHOTS.”

I knew immediately she meant “hot flashes” but tried to contain my laughter because I wanted to know if she knew what she was talking about. I asked her “What are the hot shots?”

“Actually, you probably won’t get them, because you know it’s when a woman has made a baby in her womb and the baby has come out and then when the woman gets older, she gets the hot shots? Well, you’re old enough to get them, right? But you haven’t made a baby in your womb, so you probably don’t need to worry about it!”

I like her thinking. Yes, I DO deserve an exemption from menopause because I wasn’t able to make a baby in my womb!

Who do I speak to about arranging this?

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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.

 

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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…

The IVF Cycle that Bugged Me the Most

abrn87l[1]There’s no easy way to say it:  Infertility sucks.  I have been down that road WAY further than I wish I had gone.  Sometimes I convince myself that it was a “necessary” journey I needed to travel in order to arrive at my pre-determined destination of mothering my daughter, but it was still a totally rough, shitty journey.  That’s why I’m going to write today about the lighter side of my journey (the heavy stuff will come one day, don’t worry).  In 2008, as one of our numerous attempts to impregnate me, Huzbo and I found ourselves travelling all the way to Eastern Europe to do our 3rd IVF cycle that year.

Why would we go all the way OVER THERE, you ask?  We had decided to use donor embryos, after hearing our fertility specialist inform us that our own ingredients were “the shits” (yes, he actually said that).   Donor embryos are hard to come by in my own country.  It is illegal to pay for human eggs, and while men may be fine with providing the outcome of a few moments of self-enjoyment at no cost, women must endure far worse in order to donate eggs and not many of them are willing to do that without some sort of compensation.  I don’t blame them.

So, off we trotted to this country that shall remain nameless, because really, overall it wasn’t a bad experience and I don’t want my attempt at humorous memoir-writing here to offend, hurt or put off anyone.

Our first visit to the clinic was interesting.    The drive up a small mountain to a building perched at the top reminded me of a mental institute in a movie (I’m sure there are many very pleasant mental institutes, but this one seemed intimidating).  The old, heavy metal door that I could barely open led to an all-metal elevator that some might refuse to trust, complete with clanging metal cage grill closure and noises that left me wondering if we’d even make it to the 3rd floor.

Stepping off the elevator, I had to cover my mouth with my hand.  We had read on the clinic’s website prior to departure that the nurses had recently gotten new uniforms.  There had been a small picture with the website piece, but the picture did not provide the 1,000 words that came to mind when we first saw the nurses.

Yes, they actually WEAR these uniforms.  No, I have no idea what that doll thing is all about.

Yes, they actually WEAR these uniforms. No, I have no idea what that doll thing is all about.

Uh-huh.  Like it wasn’t bad enough that this quaint Eastern European town had model-quality female eye candy strutting about for Huzbo to stare at (yet NARY any MALE eye candy for me, of course.  In fact, all the men I saw looked like they had a serious drinking problem with all their red, bulbous noses) but we had to visit this medical clinic for a daily dose of these nurses?  Perhaps they were trying to assist the men with their *cough* donations, but it just irritated me.  Did I mention the multiple daily hormone injections?

On our first visit, I was to receive a pelvic/uterine examination.  Now, here at home, we are given a nice paper “sheet” to cover our lady bits whilst waiting for the doctor to come and discreetly lift it from the bottom end and do what needs to be done.  Well, I guess that infamous European bodily “openness” extends to their fertility clinics.  I was asked to remove my clothes from the waist down and lie on the exam table. Just like at home. Except that I was told to disrobe in a little privacy corner of the room.  On the OTHER side of  the room.  While the doctor (male), nurse and of course a student doctor (also male), waited for me beside the exam table.  Oh, and my husband.  Who has obviously seen me strut my nekked stuff across a room numerous times.  Just not in a medical exam room with an audience of 3.

I just want to say at this point – GOD LOVE AND BLESS the woman who posted online about her experience with this  situation prior to my leaving for this fertility vacation and therefore gave me the idea ahead of time to wear a LONG shirt.  Very long.  As in – a DRESS.  Thankfully my bits did not perform the cha-cha across the room that day.

Fast forward to the day our “textbook quality” embryos (according to the embryologist) were to be inserted.  For those who have no experience or knowledge of in-vitro fertilization, this is done through a tube, inserted through your vagina, to your cervix, where they are then gently swooshed into your uterus with a simple request that they will be so kind as to burrow a den into your uterine lining and stick around for 9 months.

So,  it’s a big day.  I was given the standard hospital gown.  One.  No extra to use as a robe to cover the junk in my trunk.  And of course with all those stick-thin model type women living there, the damned thing doesn’t fit all the way around.  Ok, big deal – everyone is medical personnel here, right?  Wrong.  Not all the other patients in the waiting room that I had to cross in front of to get from the change room to the procedure room.  Lovely.  Just because the nurses wanted everyone to see their ass cheeks didn’t mean I wanted to join their club.

I scooted across that hallway and jumped up on the procedure table.  That was cold.  Because it was metal.  With no cover.  I tried to relax, and then noticed there were no stirrups.  (For your FEET, fellas).  My gyno covers his with cute oven mitts, but they’re still there.  To help us.  Hold up our legs in a bent/spread position.  There were no stirrups on this table.  In fact, there was a whole lot LESS table than I was used to in gyno-world back home.  I was then asked to line up my butt with the edge of the table and “rest” (HA!HA!HA!) my heels on either side of my hips.

ARE YOU F@%&+!G KIDDING ME???

That is not a comfortable position under ANY circumstance.  Unless of course you are Nadia Comaneci.  Whom clearly, I am not.  Perhaps that’s why Eastern European women  kick ass at gymnastics – they learn it at their gyno’s office.  Anyhooo, here is me, Ms. Whole Lotta Junk in the Trunk perched on her trunk at the edge of a cold metal slab desperately trying to hold my heels on the table beside my hips (and using my hands to do so) while the doctor is inserting a tube into my vajayjay and telling me to relax.  I honestly contemplated kicking him and saying my foot slipped out of the bizarre medical Twister game they had me playing.

And then I noticed the BEST part.  The part that made me forget my thighs, glutes and gut were all cramping up with the strain of my posture and my efforts to not topple off that metal slab.

It was a warm July day.  The window was open.  A large casement window.  And there were no screens people.  None.

He's smirking because he just had a fly's eyes view of my lady bits.

He’s smirking because he just had a fly’s eyes view of my lady bits.

AND A FLY JUST ENTERED THE ROOM THROUGH THAT WINDOW.

Are you getting this mental image?  Ok, good.   Hyperventilation was just a breath or two away.

And then it was over and the fly and my bits avoided confrontation, thankfully.

I was asked to lie in a “calm state” for an hour to help the embryo “find it’s mark”.  I always envision a big “THIS WAY–>” sign on my cervix when I think about those instructions.  For the literate embryos.

So I was lying on a bed in a pleasant yellow room that resembled a hospital room (6 beds, 3 on each side of the room) and Huzbo was actually starting to doze in his chair beside me.  I was trying to meditate, think calm thoughts, think happy thoughts, when I noticed that there was ALSO a huge window in this room.

ALSO without a screen.  ALSO open.

And a huge buzzing bee had just flown through that window.

She's waving goodbye at my chance of getting pregnant.  Fine for her - SHE gives birth to MILLIONS of babies...

She’s waving goodbye to my chance of getting pregnant. Fine for her – SHE gives birth to MILLIONS of babies…

Pretty sure you won’t be shocked to hear that neither of those textbook quality embryos found a warm nesting place in my uterus that day…

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Ten Tips on What to Say to Families who have Adopted

301454_10150362404090185_2968478_n[1]Have you ever met or do you already know a family that has a child that they adopted?  Did you feel awkward, uncomfortable, or didn’t know what to say or how to act, like the adoption was the giant pink elephant in the room?  Don’t feel bad.  Often people are nervous about the “right” things to say or do when they meet or even already know families that came together through adoption, especially adoptions of children from a different race.   There are so many blogs and articles floating around right now about what NOT to do in these circumstances, I thought I would write a few tips on what TO do so that people don’t have to feel they need to walk on eggshells around adoptive families.   We’re not a minefield and are usually approachable about adoption, as long as certain considerations are respected.

Here is a list of things TO DO (instead of what NOT to do!) when you encounter a family with a child or children that were adopted, or you suspect were adopted:

1.  DO refrain from any of the following questions, or questions similar to these:

  • Was/Is your child adopted?  Even if it is glaringly obvious to you that a child was adopted, ask yourself first why you need to know this information.  If there is no relevancy to your relationship with the child or the parents in knowing if the child was adopted or not, then it doesn’t really matter if the child was adopted or not.  For example, if you see a black child with white parents, asking “Did you adopt him/her?” only serves to point out to the child how obvious it is to strangers that he/she was adopted, and that often makes a child of adoption feel segregated, even if that isn’t your intention.   Your best option is to patiently wait for the family or child to introduce the topic of adoption to conversation, or to ask with sincerity “I’ve always wondered certain things about adoption.  Do you feel comfortable discussing it?” as this doesn’t point out the child as “adopted” and also leaves room for someone to politely decline to discuss adoption, if they don’t wish to.
  • Where did you get him/her?  I must admit, for some reason this question is one of my bigger pet peeves!  Once, I answered a woman with “At the black baby store”.  Not a kind or gently educational response, I agree, but this is really not the question you want to lead with, folks.  If you are already in an adoption-related conversation, it’s perfectly fine to ask “Did you adopt domestically or internationally?” and then follow up with “What country did you adopt from?” if it was an international adoption.  However, if you are at Walmart and see a white/Caucasian person with a black/Asian child and you walk up to them squealing about how cute their child is and ask this question, DO be prepared for some serious icy attitude or outright verbal rebuffing.   “Where did you get him/her?” is a question that should be used for things, not people.   It shows a complete lack of appreciation for the process of adoption, as well as the emotional journey of both the child and the parents.
  • How much did your adoption/child cost?   The real question here is – why do you need to know?  If you are interested in adoption for yourself personally, the best way to find out the cost is to speak to an agency or an Adoption Practitioner.    Talking about the financial aspect of adoption in front of a child who was adopted only serves to make that child feel like a commodity.   Plus, buying children is illegal, which is sometimes the response I give to that question when I sense somebody is simply being nosy.
  • Do you know or meet their “real” mother/father/parents?   I sometimes answer this question with “Of course!  I see her every day in the mirror!” and people usually get it pretty quickly why this question is inappropriate.   DO refer to the woman who gave birth to the child as their “birth mother”.   The mother is the woman the child calls “mom”, most likely the woman with the child, but in some cases, especially for older adoptees who have contact with their birth mother, BOTH mothers are their “real” mothers, and “birth mother” is the best term for distinction between the two.   Same terminology for birth father (Do refrain from asking if we know anything about him, as well).
  • Is this your “own” child?  Again, this question is along the same lines as “Is she/he adopted?” but I do try to consider that the person asking may just not fathom that a black (or Asian) child could have a white/Caucasian mother and father.   Unless you are a child’s teacher or school staff and are ensuring you are releasing the child into the right person’s custody, or, you have some private, parents-only information or questions (i.e medical personnel) to share with the parents about the child, then it’s probably not necessary to ask if this is somebody’s “own” child.

2.  DO avoid using the phrase “gave the child up”.   The birth mother did not “give up” their child and in most cases, the adoption plan        that the  birth mother or birth parents made was a difficult decision made with love and consideration for the child’s best well being.  DO consider how hearing that they were “given up” would make a child feel and use the terminology “the birth mother made an adoption plan/decided to have the child adopted by another family” or anything that avoids making the child feel rejected.

3.  DO ignore the fact that the child most likely does not look anything like his or her parent and feel free to discuss the weather, politics, religion or anything other than commenting on which of the parents you think the child looks like, especially if the child is of a different race or skin colour than the parents.   If you must comment on the child’s looks, do tell them they are gorgeous, handsome, cute, adorable – you get the picture.  DO also add in your comments that the child looks/sounds/seems very bright or very kind or something that also acknowledges more than just their looks, so that they don’t feel like their looks are all they have to offer (this can actually apply to ALL kids, not just ones who were adopted!).

4.  DO refer to the child having “been adopted” or “was adopted” as a past-tense verb, not a pronoun or adjective.  Say “Little Suzy WAS adopted” not “Little Suzy IS adopted” because adoption is not a medical condition, and even if it were, people with medical conditions such as diabetes, autism and epilepsy are far more than just diabetics, autistics and epileptics.  Adoption is a process that families go through to become families, it is not a description of who or what a family or a child or adult who was adopted is.

5.  DO use your own imagination about why the child’s birth parent(s) made an adoption plan and leave that question unasked.  That’s private information and often not even known.  Even if it is known, sometimes there are painful details as part of that story, and while it should not be treated as a shameful secret, it is a private part of an adoptee’s history.  DO simply make the assumption that in some way or another, life with the family who adopted them was intended to be in the best interest of the child who was adopted.  That’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

6.  Do talk about how lucky our family is, not how lucky the child we adopted is.  Unless you have some definition of luck that we’ve never heard of, it is not lucky to be separated from your birth parents at any point in your life, or to endure waiting in an orphanage environment, foster home (or worse) for some unknown strangers to come take you away from the only environment you know and sometimes speak to you in a language you don’t understand, nor is it “lucky” to often endure abuse, neglect, malnourishment or dehydration prior to adoption.  Our family is beyond lucky to be blessed with the amazing child that adoption brought to us, NOT the other way around.   While there may have been an element of wanting to help a child who needs a family in some people’s decision to adopt, we are not angels of charity – our primary reason for adopting was to add a child to our family, not to promote ourselves as do-gooders and our child as the “lucky” recipient.

7.  DO empathize that the mother (and father!) may also be sensitive to the loss of fertility, pregnancy experience, birth experience or the loss of all kinds of “firsts” in the child’s life (first smile, first tooth, first steps, first words, etc) depending on the age that the child was adopted at.  DO understand that any kinds of comments about how the adoptive family had their child “the easy way” is an insult and demonstrates ignorance on your part regarding the financial, emotional and sometimes even physical efforts required in an adoption process.

8.  DO keep your comments about pregnancies that happen immediately after adoption to yourself.  Adoption is NOT a fertility treatment, and if we do actually conceive, what we “will do” is welcome that child into our family exactly the same way we welcomed the child that we adopted.  A bio child is not the ultimate prize over a child through adoption and asking such questions in front of our child who was adopted only serves to make them feel that they were the  Plan B consolation prize.

9.  DO be prepared to accept gentle education from some adoptive families.  Our family is one of many that does not take offense to unintentional violations of the above tips, but we do also feel it is our obligation to our daughter and other children of adoption that we politely correct someone if they have said or done something that could possibly hurt or disrespect our child and her family, both adoptive and birth.

10.  DO feel free to open up a respectful conversation about adoption, using the above guidelines. They are not meant as intimidation factors.  We are not ashamed or embarrassed of our adoption and generally most families enjoy talking about most aspects of their adoption journey, although some families do opt to keep certain details private, so do also be prepared to hear “I’m sorry, that’s something we keep private” as a response and respect that.   A great opening line, if you are genuinely interested in adoption, is “I’ve always been curious about adoption and how it works.  Would you mind if I ask some questions?”    If you have a smile on your face and friendly curiosity in your heart (not nosiness in your eyes and mind) than there are few families that won’t share their beautiful, fantastic stories of how their incredible family came together.

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Please feel free to share any “DO’s” that I might have missed.

Get Cracking…

My daughter is yearning for a sibling.   A baby sibling, that is, considering she already has a big brother.   Her big brother only lives with us half of the time, as he lives the other half with his mother (he is my husband’s son from my husband’s first marriage).   This is sometimes very hard on her, saying goodbye on Friday morning when he leaves for school, and knowing she won’t see him again until the following Friday afternoon.  Baby Girl adores her brother, but from time to time, she asks me to “get her a baby”.   Oh if only it were that easy, my darling!

Sometimes she asks for a baby from South Africa, one that will “match” her (her terminology).   She has bouts of concern and inquisition about who matches who in our family and social circle.   She feels sad sometimes that she doesn’t “match” us.  This is hard, because I can’t overcome her being bothered by that.   Our family will never “match” in skin colour and even at her tender young age, she is already aware and sensitive to this.   I don’t try to correct or dispute her feelings.  I try to validate how that must feel for her, I try to explain that being a family doesn’t mean that everyone has to look the same (very common “adopt-talk”).   In fact, I often point out that daddy and I have curly hair, just like her, that mommy has “juicy lips” just like her, that mommy has big, dark eyes just like her.   But it’s not enough for her.   Thankfully we live in a very multicultural neighbourhood and town, where families with biracial parents and children are common.   I point out to her that the children of these families don’t always “match” one or either of their parents, depending on their skin tone.    However, this still isn’t enough.

To my daughter, I think “matching” goes much deeper than someone having the same colour of skin as her.   It is a sibling who comes from another country, worlds away in so many ways more than just geographically.   It is a sibling who has a complicated history prior to meeting their “forever family”.   A sibling who suddenly at an age that he or she can remember, was taken by people that looked nothing like them, spoke a language they were unfamiliar with, and put into the care of these people for the rest of their lives.   In short, my daughter wants a sibling that can relate to her on every level of her adoptive and transracial experience, because I can’t, daddy can’t and her brother can’t.  

We are so very fortunate to live in a city where there is a support network of families who have also adopted from South Africa.   The majority of these families are also transracial.   This network strives to plan and facilitate family events where all of our children can experience their birth culture, play and interract with other children from their country of birth and feel as though they are not that “different” kid at the park or school or sport or art class who doesn’t “match” their parents.    Because most of the kids don’t match their parents and that makes our kids feel like they fit in.    Most of these children are not old enough yet to be having conversations with one another about how they all feel emotionally about being a black child adopted by a white family, but I know all the parents’ sincere hope is that after years of playing together and bonding as kids, at some point they will feel comfortable enough with one another to share these thoughts and feelings and feel they too have a network of support and understanding from other kids who have had similar experiences as they do.  

My husband and I are finished creating our family, but our daughter doesn’t understand the many reasons why that is.  She just wants a sibling who matches her.    As I’m sure many parents through adoption can identify with, children of adoption tend to know about where babies come from a little earlier than bio kids.   The simple fact is, you start talking about birth mothers and being created and carried in another woman’s womb, it’s quite natural and logical for even a very young child (age 2.5 for my baby) to ask how exactly a baby gets in to that womb, anyway.   We decided early on that our daughter was very intuitive and bright and emotionally mature enough to handle truthful answers (and probably wouldn’t buy in to the stork story anyway), so we explained this way:   The woman has eggs near her womb and a man plants the seed in her womb and the seed and egg join together and a baby grows from that and comes out after 9 months.   Simple as that.    And she was completely satisfied with this (with the exception of the constant questioning I received after one morning she turned on the TV for cartoons and TLC’s “A Baby Story” was on and she witnessed a baby being born and kept asking me for months and months why the baby was covered in “mud”!).   She didn’t ask any further questions at that time, nor has she since.    But last week we were sitting at the kitchen table and she again asked if we could make a baby in my womb.   I told her that mommy and daddy had tried many times to make a baby in my womb, but my womb was broken and we couldn’t make one.    Her response?   Mommy, I know what your problem was!   You didn’t eat enough eggs when you were trying to make a baby!   You needed to eat more eggs so they filled up your womb so there was lots there to make a baby!

Ah yes.   From the mouths of babes!   Silly us, spending all that time, money and emotional energy on fertility treatments!!!   I only wish it was that simple, but I didn’t correct her incorrect assumption.   Children are innocent for such a short time, and most children of international adoption are faced with being forced out of innocence much earlier than their bio peers.

This entire subject must be nesting in her constantly ticking mind, however.   Last night in the midst of the craziness at McDonald’s (read yesterday’s post) we visited the ladies’ room.   As she was there, doing her business, my baby looked up at me and asked “How did I get out of my birth mother’s womb?”.    (My daughter is QUEEN of coming up with zinger comments and questions in public washrooms, by the way.   Sometime if I’m drinking and blogging, I’ll tell you what she said to me in the every-stall-full washroom at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas.)   I told her how babies come out.   A high level explanation of childbirth and a small aside about C-sections, because sometimes babies can’t come out the other way.  I then gave her the talk about keeping this information private between her and I and not to discuss it with her friends or anyone else, because those people need to talk about that subject with their parents, not her.   I instructed her to come to me with any other questions she might have about what we talked about.   She had none at the time – we were finished in the stall and playland was waiting.    I’m sure she’s saving them for our next visit to a public washroom!