Friends, I've kind of been having a mid-life crisis. Thus the Boyz II Men lyrics. Actually, I'm going to give life the benefit of the doubt and call it a pre-mid-life crisis. (My two grandmothers are still living, turning 91 and 83 this year, so I have genetics on my side.)
This summer I'm turning 37 and am officially in my "late 30's." (Can't say "mid" once you're to the 7.) And although the looming 40 doesn't necessarily scare me, it does get me thinking a little more big picture and asking questions like "What do I REALLY want to be when I grow up?"
My sweet husband has listened so patiently as I've been talking aimlessly about hopes and dreams and plans and bucket lists. And one thing that I've landed on is that I want to write. I love writing, and I find a lot of fulfillment when people read what I've written and like it, are encouraged by it or connect to it on some level. I especially love writing about motherhood and sharing moments when I've needed grace so badly and when He has given it so lavishly. And of course, nothing pleases me more than conveying a hilariously awful parenting moment for your reading enjoyment.
So I've decided I'm just going write more. I'm going to try to blog more, try a little more freelance stuff and maybe submit my work to some publications. (Which may or not pan out.) A book proposal is not totally out of the question. It obviously will fluctuate with our family's schedule, and there's a chance that I'm really fired up about it right now and by October I'll be exhausted and go back to blogging irregularly. But even if I don't make a single dollar for my writing, I know it's something I want to pursue. Just for me.
One step in this direction is that I've decided to use my real name when blogging.
Guys, I'm going to say goodbye to Brazenlilly.
Where's the emoticon for weeping and gnashing of teeth? This alter ego has been so good to me, because no one else has it, so I only had to be creative once and then re-use it hundreds of times. It's embarrassing to admit how long it took me to settle on this recent decision, because I'm so attached to that silly name.
But the point is to try to get more writing gigs and increase my blog readership. And part of getting more writing gigs is to get my name out there. The more you like what I've written and share it and re-post it, the better my chances of getting more writing gigs and increasing blog readership. But that kind of defeats the purpose if my name is nowhere on my writing. I've been worried about my family's privacy, but a reliable source recently pointed out to me that any weirdo with enough computer knowledge can trace my IP address and find out where I live, even if I never use my last name. So, I'm going to move forward in faith and not fear.
Thank you, friends and family, for being so encouraging and sweet about reading my blog. You'll always be my favorite audience. And I hope you'll follow me over at:
My adorable little 5 year old redhead just learned to play tic-tac-toe. She got a $1 "Hello Kitty" white board from Target as a reward for good behavior and it has 3 tic-tac-toe game frames on it. It's been about three days and I'm possibly going to saw the board in half and put it at the bottom of the outside garbage can in the dead of night. You guys. I'm serious.
Stages of losing my sanity by playing tic-tac-toe:
Stage 1, Wednesday morning. So cute! So proud! She's learned a fun, basic game that all kids should know. Of course I'll play! I'm going to let her win. Oh wait, even when I try to let her win, she still doesn't. "You can win up and down too?" She asks me. OK, so maybe she hasn't totally learned how to play, even though this is our 34th game. I kinda need a break.
Stage 2, Thursday evening: I'm done letting her win. It's time for tough love and I'm going to cream her so maybe she'll get tired and we can quit. "What's diagonal?" she just asked me. Oh for the love. I'm winning every game. Why is she such a good loser? It doesn't even seem to bother her! OHMYWORD, she won't stop asking.
Stage 3, Friday afternoon. I'm worried for my own mental health. And also? Hers a little bit. Who wants to play this game over and over and over and over? And over? I'm putting my X on the EXACT SAME SPOT every single time. We're tied every game. Each of our turns we are doing the same moves ad nauseum. I've tried putting in something other than X or O just to mix things up, but then she makes us start over again. Can't....take....it...any....more....
Stage 4, tomorrow morning: "Oh, man! Gosh. Where could it have gone? Hmmmm....that is SUCH a bummer, babe. How about we try something different, like water paints?"
(I'm NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU, she just came up to me as I'm typing this and asked me to play again, even though I walked away from the 428th game to post this.)
*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process some things I've learned in our adoption process. I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again! I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption and have asked me about our experience, but anyone is welcome to read and comment. (Please be gracious!)*
OK, I think this will be my last post in this series. It's hard mental work to process through all of this. Someone commented the other day that they miss my funny blog posts. I do too! I want to do more of that. But adoption issues have been a big part of my life lately, and adoption is many things, but "funny" isn't at the top of the list. So, let's cut to the chase and get the potentially offensive part out of the way. IMHO, adoption is romanticized, maybe even a little more so by Christians. We really need to stop doing that. But to be fair, adoption is just one of a long list of things that is often romanticized in our society. Before I was married, I had an idea of what it was going to be like: my sweet husband giving me nightly shoulder massages; neither of us needing to watch television EVER because our delightful evening repartee would be so engaging; we'd spend our weekends walking farmers markets hand in hand and he would surprise me with huge bouquets of fresh flowers. Weekly. Now, I'm still madly in love with my husband! He has proved his love to me over and over again in 13 years, but he does it by unclogging a drain full of disgusting hair or cleaning up a child's vomit at 2 am, not usually with fresh flower bouquets. The reality is not WORSE than the dream, it's just very different. Parenting in GENERAL is hugely romanticized! How many of us, when we are expecting (in whatever form that comes) picture ourselves in clean, white houses with lots of sunlight, holding our precious infant as the child coos back? Or we picture precious Mommy/child dates at our favorite coffee shop, enjoying all the other customers' looks of adoration as we sip with our little mini-me's and charm the world. Fast forward a few years and we haven't slept for 4 years straight and our children happen to be the type that can clear a Starbucks in 20 seconds flat because of their wild behavior, and you're not sure if the whining or the constant crumbs on your bare feet will kill you first? (Did I mention the vomit? And, really, all the bodily fluids in general.) I've only met a very few parents who feel like parenting has lived up to the dream. It's not WORSE, it's just very different. I'm afraid that a picture has been painted of adoption that is not exactly accurate. Perhaps I should personalize it, because I cannot speak for everyone. I had a picture of adoption, what it was and what it meant for my child and my family, and it was not exactly accurate. So much of this is tied up in what I've learned from adoptees and how it has shaped how I now view adoption as an act of obedience and not a noble rescue mission. Before our son came home, I dreamed of the exciting and long-awaited airport arrival, of introducing him to all the people who already loved him and helped us in our adoption, and how fun it would be to have three kids happily playing in our sprinkler. (Even though all of that came true and was incredible.) I read lots of books and did all my required training, and had so many people tell us how wonderful it was that we were doing this. And when the reality hit, it wasn't WORSE, it was just very different. But I'm afraid that the Church, generally speaking, has become such a great cheerleader for adoption, that in some cases, we may need to tone it down a bit with the pom-poms and streamers. Before you bristle--lemme 'splain. I believe Christians should be on the front lines of orphan care, foster care, ministry to the vulnerable and also adoption. I want our churches to be full of more adoptive families. But I don't want churches (or para-church organizations/adoption agencies/current adoptive families) to promote adoption with emotional pleas to families who do not feel called to adopt OR who are not fully prepared to adopt. (Disclaimer for my peeps: I've never felt like this happened at the church I attend.) I cringe a little when statistics of orphans are used to recruit adoptive families, because although the statistics are true and mind-boggling, MOST of the true orphans in the world are not adoptable and never will be. In many cases, especially internationally, it seems there are more parents interested in adopting healthy children than there are healthy, legally adoptable children. (Foster children in the US and "special needs" children around the world are always in need of more loving families.) I would love to see some of the passion and excitement for adoption be spread around to include families who definitely are not going to adopt, but could have such an amazing impact in the lives of children. I pray that as we embrace adoption, we do so with eyes wide open to what adoption means---for the children and for the families. I still cry with joy and cheer loudly when someone tells me they are adopting! It is and will always be an amazing way to grow your family and to provide a permanent, loving home to a child! I just want to be careful that as we're cheerleading, we're having difficult discussions about what it means to parent a child from a hard place. While we're working our way down a waiting list, our children are losing everything. Or a birth mother is finding herself in crisis and making the most painful choice of her life. Or our future son/daughter is being removed from another foster family. Yes, oh my word, yes, I want to get them home FAST! But I don't want it to be all sunshine and roses, because this flower has some thorns. The person who is the most affected by adoption is the adoptee, and I don't want to lose sight of that. But I also have become passionate about adoptive parents being honest about their challenges, while still respecting their children's privacy. (I'm equally as passionate about ALL parents being more honest about our challenges! Let's get real, people.) I know of several adoptive families who have had very few challenges while raising their adopted kiddos and helping them heal. Praise the Lord! But many, many more are surprised by how incredibly emotionally, physically and spiritually draining it is to be down in the trenches with a grieving child--that you just met and are learning to love. Or that you met 4 years ago and his or her little heart still has not healed or attached. But you know what: I still PRAISE THE LORD! Because the kids and the parents are doing the hard work, day after day, year after year. Because of adoption, they are not aging out of broken systems all over the world. Instead they are struggling through in an imperfect, but loving HOME. And I have heard story after story of how the only PERFECT PARENT (meaning God, in case that wasn't clear) has done amazing work of restoration and redemption in the lives of not only the adopted kiddos, but their parents as well. So, hear me please. I LOVE ADOPTION. Actually, I wish all children could be raised by loving, capable, biologically related parents. But we live in a fallen world and since that is not our reality, I'm so grateful for adoption. I love it so much that I want families to pursue it, prepare sufficiently for it, and then shout from the rooftops how God has performed a redeeming work in their lives. Adoption is beautiful and powerful as it is--no need to pretend it's anything else.
*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process some things I've learned in our adoption process. I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again! I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption and have asked me about our experience, but anyone is welcome to read and comment. (Please be gracious!)* When we began our adoption process, we were drawn to the country of Thailand for many reasons. It is a gorgeous country with beautiful cultures and traditions. The particular adoption program we would be using was solid and had a long history of consistency, including the fact that the children live in loving foster families prior to adoption. Thailand is also known for rampant $ex trafficking, and in our minds, by adopting a child who had been relinquished by his birth family, we could be saving him or her from an industry that preys on vulnerable children. I confess had visions of how fulfilling this grand act of nobility would be, and how much better off this child would be in our home. I didn't envision myself with a cape or anything, but there was definitely a bit of a rescue mission mindset. I admit this because I want you to know the thoughts in this post do not come from a place of judgement, but truly my own heart-learning. Over the last four years, I have come to realize the dangers of viewing myself and other adoptive parents as the ones "saving" or rescuing a child, no matter how grim or dire their situation is prior to placement. In my humble opinion, adoptive parents need to lose the rescue mentality. In a very gracious and honest conversation with another AP who does not share my same religious beliefs, I admitted to my friend that I begun this process with the desire to save an orphan. She asked me how and why my perspective had shifted, and it was difficult to answer her concisely. But I will try. As I previously shared in my post about listening to adoptees, hearing from some adults who had been adopted was pivotal in how my thoughts changed. Carissa Woodwyk, an adoptee from Korea, was the first person to point out to me that there are many adoptees who bristle at the word "orphan," especially when used to describe adoptees prior to adoption. The "O" word has such vast subtext, including connotations that children in this category need our charity and pity. (Remember, whether or not that truly describes HOW WE FEEL about orphans is not the point. The point is that some adoptees feel that way. In addition, many vulnerable and adoptable children are not technically orphans--that is, they still have one or more living parents.) Carissa said that children waiting to be adopted don't want or need pity, they want what every human being on the planet desires: to be loved and wanted and well cared for. They want to be seen as unique individuals with talents and dreams and quirks, not lumped into a large group. Other adoptees have pointed out that campaigns (t-shirts, slogans, etc.) that combine orphan care and adoption can sometimes make adopted children feel like they were a merely a fundraiser or another Christian cause. Adoption is NOT just a form of orphan care. Adoption is deciding to extend your family, raise a child forever, love a little person unconditionally. It is an amazing gift and choice, and I absolutely believe it is a beautiful part of God's plan. Yes, we often need to raise funds for it, and yes, it is a very worthwhile "cause" to support. But I've found it's imperative to find the distinction between a family's decision to adopt a specific child into their family forever, with all the beautiful and messy aspects that are unique to THAT CHILD, and the Church's call to support and care for widows and orphans in their distress. (James 1:27) Foundational in my mental adjustment was the realization of how a rescue mentality would be communicated to my son and other adoptees. The notion that I am rescuing YOU, elevates me and lowers you. It implies that what I have to offer in my American home is BETTER than anything you had previously, or could have had. Of course in some situations, this is not up for disagreement. (You would hope.) A loving family is always a better option than a child growing up in an institution or orphanage, no matter how wonderful the orphanage. However, a loving, middle class home in the US is absolutely not better than a loving, poor home in Thailand. Friends, I was in the foster home where Asher lived for 21 months. It might be considered below the poverty line by our standards, but he was happy, he was loved and he was well-cared for. Period. I believe that instead of focusing on rescuing orphans, we should be more focused on finding ways to keep families together when poverty is the only reason a parent would relinquish their child. When that is not possible, and a child manages to make it through the bureaucratic nightmare of becoming "adoptable," then we choose to parent them as a redemptive response to a situation of loss. Even in situations where a child, for whatever reason, has waited years to be adopted, and it looks from all angles like these parents just rescued this child from a dire fate, that "rescue" only happens once. There is one day when they cease to be an orphan. The rest is just straight up parenting--and often it is a parenting road filled with extra challenges! The feelings of nobility fade. Fast. In our situation, we did not adopt JUST to add to our family. (We could have had a third bio kid.) We truly felt the Lord directly leading us to adopt internationally, to parent a child who did not have a forever family. I believe that adoption is ordained by God and part of the reason we should consider it is to be obedient to him. But as with so many other things he calls us to, part of the calling is to HUMBLE ourselves in our obedience, not view ourselves as godly superheroes sent in to save the day. In this journey, I'm continually humbled as to the ways God is asking me to serve my children. I'm convinced that if I perceive our adoption as us "saving" our son, that perception WILL be communicated to him, one way or another. When someone is rescued, it is usually implied that they should be grateful. I never want to communicate to my son that he should be grateful for being relinquished by his birth mother, for being taken away from his foster family where he was loved and felt so secure, for starting over as a child with an understanding that he was losing everything familiar and comfortable, but no language to communicate that. I'm confident the Lord already has and will continue to do a wonderful work of healing in his heart, and I pray that he feels blessed to be a part of this family! But I never intend for him to see us as his rescuers. Just his mom and dad who love him like crazy, no matter what. But I think the bottom line for me is that when I think of myself as a rescuer, it takes away the focus from MY RESCUE. I will never be the rescuer in this big story of life, even in our family's story, because I am the one lost and alone and hopeless without Jesus. David Platt has a well-known quote: 'We adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are the rescued." HE is the rescuer! JESUS is my rescuer AND my son's rescuer! I long for Asher to understand how all of our stories are full of loss and redemption, grief and joy, and nothing here on earth will truly satisfy us until we ask our Heavenly Father to invade every part of our lives. Through this process, God continues to refine me and challenge me and SHOW HIS FAITHFULNESS TO ME over and over and over. No, I definitely did not rescue my son. But the journey of him in my life may just have rescued me.
*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process things I've learned in our adoption process--and since. I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm SO not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again! I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption or are in process, but anyone is welcome to read and comment. (Please be gracious!)*
My last post was mostly about what I have learned from adoptees. To summarize: a TON of important and relevant information which continues to shape my interactions with my son and the adoption community. I loved people's comments here and on f@cebook, and wanted to point out what my sweet friend Wendy said: not all adoptees have a platform opinion on adoption. Being adopted, for some, is like the color of their hair. It's a part of them, but does not define them and they really don't think about it that often or have a strong opinion to share. They're just living their lives, thanks. But especially since I've chosen to be involved in adoption-related ministry, I'm going to keep listening to the voices who DO still have strong feelings and think about their adoption loss daily, and just be prepared to inquire and be present with my guy no matter where he is in the process.
You'll notice this post is a bit shorter. I've not read as much or heard as much from the birth mother voice. I have found some insightful blogs (linked below) and read some powerful articles by birth moms. The thing that stands out to me the most is how MANY DIFFERENT reasons a pregnant woman chooses not to raise her child, and how MANY DIFFERENT life situations they represent. I've learned there is no "stereotypical" birth mom story.
Those who choose to voice their story almost always talk about the difficulty and pain of handing over their child. No matter how resolute they are in their choice, the ache of surrendering this person that you carried inside of you for nine months is profoundly deep. Anyone who has given birth can probably empathize with that inexplicable connection. Some birth moms feel that they were coerced into choosing adoption for their child, by their own parents or even adoption agencies. When this is the case, these birth moms seem to live years with pain AND resentment. However, even those who stood firm in their own choice still often suffer immense sadness and depression, particularly in the first year(s) after relinquishment and on the child's birthday. Some heal from this pain rather quickly, others never do. Still others refuse to acknowledge the birth, and even when contacted by the adoptee, they deny any relationship. Some birth mothers have a lot of anger. It is directed at different sources, but many feel betrayed or rejected by the adoptive parents and/or their child. Just like the angry adoptee online world, there is an angry birth mom online world as well. It's hard to read, not necessary to live in, but IMHO, still important to LISTEN.
Last year at Called to Love (holla!--retreat for adoptive moms you should check out) we had a panel of birth moms share their stories with us. It was so powerful to have these beautiful, strong women give us a glimpse into their past and their present, their decision, and their dreams for their children. They defied any stereotypes we might have. The message I heard from each of them was: "I don't want to be ____________'s mom. I just want to know about her life and how she's doing." They had gratitude and respect for the adoptive parents, and simply asked for the same in return.
The topic of and relationship with birth mothers should be handled with great care. But those of us who have adopted internationally rarely have the opportunity to interact with our child's birth mothers. If we have a name, a bit of a story, or in the best of circumstances, a photograph, we are so blessed. Many international adoptees have no information on their birth families whatsoever. (I remember meeting a young adoptee from Southeast Asia, and I told her my son was born there. The first question out of her mouth was: "Does he know his real birthday?" I said yes. Her face fell and she just said, "He's so lucky." It broke my heart. The simplest gift of knowing your date of birth, the teensiest bit of information about the woman who carried and delivered you is information that the majority of us take SO for granted. But that's technically back to relating to adoptees, not birthparents....)
I will make one sweeping generalization regarding adoptive parents and birth parents. In GENERAL, there seems to be some tension between the two members of the triad. IMHO, in GENERAL, I think more grace can and should be given by both parties, but TO birth moms in particular. In the way we talk about them with our children and each other, and even our body language and tone. In finding gracious responses when we read angry words directed at adoptive parents. More honor and respect can probably be shown, even in rough circumstances. I know that is easy for me to say, not having any dealings at all with my son's birth mom. Some parents are trying to juggle a relationship with an emotionally unhealthy or mentally ill birth parent, an addict or even an abuser. I won't even pretend to have any insight for those situations, because that is not my experience and I haven't talked with any parent in this situation who feels great success. But for the majority of families, we can make a decision to always speak of our children's first parents with respect, no matter what their decisions have been in life.
Without putting ourselves in the shoes of a birth mother who is unable to parent, it's far too easy to ignore or look down on them. Reading this article and seeing these pictures of birth mothers was one of the most emotionally painful things I've ever experienced. In China there is (was) a "Baby Safety Island" also known as a "baby hatch" where parents can relinquish their children without penalty and with promise that the children will be taken care of. A reporter captured these moments of PURE ANGUISH at the moment of relinquishment. The laws and culture of each country are different. The effects of systemic poverty are more than we can ever comprehend. Most of us will NEVER know the feeling of being scared and pregnant, having no idea how we will feed and clothe the child. We may disagree, we may feel strongly that we would have chosen differently, but God forbid any of us dare to cast judgement.
One last thought. Recently I've become aware of a fantastically simple truth: in developing nations, access to prenatal care, counseling, safe options for labor and delivery, and real postpartum support are all forms of orphan prevention. I love adoption, but I don't love how many children are relinquished by living, loving parents due to lack of resources. Many women relinquish their children because they feel hopeless and scared, for themselves and their children. Ministrires like Heartline in Haiti provide support to empower these women to raise their children, even in seemingly dire circumstances. If we truly desire to care for the most vulnerable, the least of these, it only makes sense that we support organizations that are helping women to be just moms--not "birth moms." Please take a moment to check out their ministry.
Birth mom blogs and articles (opinions in links below do not necessarily represent Brazenlilly's opinions):
If you're just checking in, I'm starting a series about things I have learned in the adoption process--and since. I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always right, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again! I especially want to process these thoughts in writing for friends and acquaintances who are considering adoption or are in process, but anyone is welcome to read and comment (please be gracious!).
In my fist post, I indicated that I would write next about the discussion of adopting with a rescue in mind. I'm putting that off for a few days, partly because I realized I wanted to explain some things that led to my heart-learning on that one, and also because I'm pouting that I had the post mostly written, then my computer crashed and I lost it. [Insert grown woman stomping foot, crossing arms and sticking out lower lip with frowny face.] So, let's back up a bit:
IMHO, the best thing that adoptive parents can do, particularly in the time between deciding to adopt and bringing a child home, is to be a stinkin' sponge. I want you to read EVERYTHING you can get your hands on about adopting, especially anything that is about adopting a child about the same age as your child(ren) will be. Read the attachment books that don't really make sense to you yet, then read them again when you are in crisis 5 months after your kiddo is home. Read books about the brain and trauma/ abuse/ neglect and how it physically affects children and their behavior, then read the parenting books for kids like this, because a different style of parenting is needed. Read magazines by adoption agencies full of joy and hope and beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted children. Read lots of blogs by adoptive moms, but even better: find one who's been home a while, buy her a coffee (I mean, maybe she likes Nonfat Caramel Machiattos, for instance. Just a suggestion.), schedule an hour or two, look her in the eye and say: "Tell me everything--the good, the bad and the ugly," and then really listen.
(It's also OK to come up for air during the long wait. If you are sick of talking about an adoption that seems it will never happen--that's OK too.)
But sweet friends, here's the thing. You cannot stop there. I had that last paragraph down! I was networking like crazy with other adoptive parents, researching my little brains out, proud of how much I was learning. "Yeah me! I've so got this." --Jen T, circa June 2010. But the real and powerful changes in my heart happened when I began to read and listen to the voices of a) people with whom I disagreed, b) birth moms, and d) ADOPTEES. This mostly came from articles and blog posts, a few books and also attending conferences and watching documentaries.
Sidebar editorial: I feel like our social media culture breeds quick-reflex offense. If we stumble on something that upsets us or that we disagree with, we feel the need to LOUDLY proclaim how wrong it is--usually how wrong THAT PERSON is. May I propose, dear fellow adoptive parent, that we take our fingers off the trigger of that response gun, holster it for a bit, and truly process the article, the post, the status update, the tweet. Consider the heart of the author, their story and how they may have come to that perspective. It's very likely we will still disagree, but knee-jerk, outraged responses don't help anyone. ESPECIALLY when it comes to listening to adoptees and birth moms, it's best to close your mouth and open your ears. (Like the old saying goes, that's why we have one of the former and two of the latter.) WE DON'T HAVE TO AGREE OR UNDERSTAND. But we still should read and listen. If the title of an adoption article makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, read it anyway.
I subscribe to a magazine called The Adoption Constellation (it used to be called Adoption Mosaic), which is for all members of the adoption triad: birth families, adoptees and adoptive parents. It is not a faith-based publication; I think the editors are working to even out the voices heard in adoption circles, to include adoptees and birth moms, not just adoptive parents. A few years ago I came to an opinion piece titled something like: Why Evangelical Christians are Damaging Adoption. WHOA...say WHAT?! "OH NO HE DI'INT!" -Jen T., circa January, 2011. My heart started pounding, and my righteous anger was stirring something fierce. I just knew I would disagree with everything in this stupid article. But I read it anyway. The author, who was not a Christian, believed that Christian circles are championing adoption very strongly right now. So much so that, to this man, it seemed like a fad. He believed that when people adopt for religious reasons they often had a romanticized view of saving an orphan, and as they pursue this cause, they often do so without adequate training and education. In other words, they jump on the bandwagon, pat themselves on the back, and are completely unprepared for the harsh realities of parenting a hurting child, and end up causing MORE damage to the children, many times resulting in disruption. (Quick note: disruption is when an adoptive family is not able or willing to continue parenting a child who was adopted, and they go through the process of finding a new home for the child. This happens for MANY, MANY different reasons.)
Did I appreciate the huge over-generalization of all "Evangelical Christians"? Not at all. Did he have some reasonable points. Yep. Did it cause me to take a step back and give more thought to how we promote adoption in the Church? Yes. Did I agree with everything he said? Definitely not. (For instance, I think people who adopt for ANY reason often have a romanticized view.) Did it stir in me a passionate desire NOT to be an unprepared adoptive parent who thinks my job is over the minute I walk off the airplane with my adopted child. HECK, YES it did. (Was part of my motivation to PROVE HIM WRONG? Lil' bit.) That blasted article helped me be a better parent. I hated it, but I needed to read it.
I remember the first time I came across the blog world of angry adult adoptees. Ya'll, I wanted to vomit in despair. There are some blogs by adults who were adopted, and they HATE adoption, they HATE adoption workers and agencies, they HATE their adoptive parents and they pretty much HATE all adoptive parents. I found a few blogs like this, but what shocked me was the amount of comments from other adoptees who felt the same way. The reasons they felt this way ranged from physical and emotional abuse by adoptive parents to just the parent's inability to make the child truly feel like part of the family.
I DID NOT LIKE READING THESE. But I think it's good that I did. It only took that one horrid day of reading, soaking in the pit of hurt and hate, and I've never gone back. But it was important for me to know that not every adoptee loves their story. It was important for me to begin to understand the myriad of hurts that adoptees can (and most WILL) experience. Not all of these adoptees were abused, some of their parents successfully created a loving home and attached with their child and it was not enough to heal their hearts. LOVE DOES NOT CONQUER ALL. "WHAT?! Then why are we even doing this?!" --Jen T, circa October 2011.
Fortunately, I recovered from that trip down hatred lane, and stumbled into the even more powerful world of non-angry adult adoptees who still have hurts, who have not reconciled their entire stories, who love their adoptive parents but want us to know that a loving family does not erase or heal a broken heart. Even better, some of them have entered into the world of adoptive parents and are helping us begin to view the world MORE through the lens of our adopted children, and LESS through our own AP lens. I remember thinking that only adoptees who are conscious of change at the time of their adoption would suffer emotional wounds. But I've heard story after story of older adoptees who still feel a VOID, even if they were adopted hours after birth! For many (not all) the feelings of rejection and abandonment do not go away. A grown woman can look me in the eye and say "There must be something wrong with me if my own mother didn't want me." That LOSS has nothing to do with her adoptive parents. It is just a part of her story, and instead of running from the pain, the only way I can help my child heal is to acknowledge and ENTER INTO the pain with him. Every adopted child will process their story and their identity differently. I just need to be emotionally real and present.
Early in our process, I watched the documentary ADOPTED. One of the subjects is an adult woman, adopted from Korea as an infant. I remember her trying to talk to her (adoptive) mom about her feelings of being different, of being the only Asian in the family. Her mom just kept saying things like: "I don't think of you as different! I love you! When I see you I just see my daughter--I forget you are Asian!" I think we used to be told these were helpful things. Let's be colorblind! Guess what? NO. Not helpful. This woman/daughter articulated that when her mom said that, it made her feel invisible. Or worse: it made her feel like the Asian part of herself (which, no matter what anyone says, is a HUGE part of her identity and appearance, and everyone knows it) was something negative or not as good as being white, so let's pretend she's Caucasian. I have no doubt that is not what her loving mother intended, but that was a deep hurt that stuck with her long into adulthood.
This same documentary was also one of the first times I heard directly from an adoptee how strongly she needed to talk about her birth family, especially her birth mother. This topic made her adoptive mom feel uncomfortable, so she would always change the subject or stop the conversation. Again, the adoptive mom may have thought she was protecting her daughter from dwelling on the painful abandonment, but by refusing to talk about it, the message the daughter received was: birth mom = negative. The daughter finally articulated--I think it was as her adoptive mom was dying!--that by doing that, mom had inadvertently sent very damaging messages to her daughter. The daughter said something like: my birth mom is a part of me! I am a part of her! Even though I will never know her, she is IN me, and when you make me feel like she is bad or wrong, you are saying to me that a big part of ME is bad or wrong. "I am going to remember this." --Jen T, circa January 2012
I could write many more posts on what I've learned from adoptees, and I haven't even skimmed the surface of the birth mom stories, but I have to stop this post before it's a book. And I continue to learn! Even last week I was surprised by a post on the Lost Daughters blog, but I'm so glad I read it and was able to hear and understand more about how these particular adoptees view life. I so strongly believe that if we, as AP's are willing to listen to the voices of the others in the triad, it can only benefit our children and our families. Each of us has to go through our own process of heart-learning and will be most moved by different words and stories. When you have time, please watch THIS VIDEO of Carissa Woodwyk, one of the adult adoptees who completely rocked my world in a gentle way. She has a bit of a poetic flair, and this is a reading of hers that is personal and so very important. I think every adoptive parent should watch.
"In my humble opinion, we must LISTEN." -Jen T. circa May 2014
Have you learned anything by listening to an adoptee? I'd love to hear about it.