Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tales from the Trenches: Adoptive Comments

My husband and I have always been completely open with the details of K-'s adoption. Our feeling was that if there was someone out there that we could help, we would. In fact, we have. Along the way, we've had some really dumb stuff said to us.

"There's no way I could ever adopt." -- I understand this, as adoption is not for everyone. However, we had the husband of a good friend of mine say it to my husband. I had my hair stylist say it to me, all the while she was in the throes of infertility. (Though good to know her limitations.) We also had our Christian tax man tell us that as he was preparing our taxes the first year that we had K-. He was also unaware of the details of the adoption credit-- the largest tax credit available in the United States-- and seemed not interested in finding out what he would need to know. We fired him.

As I said, we understand that adoption is not for everyone, but everyone knew the pain and the details of what we went through and the final joy of where we were at. They just needed to keep their big fat pie holes shut.

"I could never imagine raising someone else's child." -- Don't worry. They aren't someone else's child, that is unless that is how you treat it. We view K- as a complete and utter gift from God. Truly, that child was held and kept safe only by Heavenly hands themselves. With everything that her birth mom had been involved in, there was major Heavenly protection. K- has been with us since she was a day and a half old. We are the only parents that she has ever known.

"Oh! You adopted! Where did you get your baby from?!" "The county south of us." "Oh." -- I understand that I am going to offend some people with this statement. Just hear me out. We did not adopt to be viewed as heroic. We adopted to be a family. I doubt that there are many adoptive parents that do adopt for a title of being heroic. We adopted because it was our hearts calling. Our hearts calling was to domestic adoption. We knew that we specifically wanted a county adoption, as we felt that those children were those most left behind. However, so many times we were given the unexcited "oh" when we said that we adopted a county kid. People want to hear stories of how you trudged out to far off lands, went by boat, Jeep, and critter caravan to get out to some remote location. It's like we disappointed people by saying that we were "in and out of labor and delivery in an hour."

"It's so much harder to adopt here than it is internationally." -- Untrue. Totally and completely untrue. We had friends that started their road to international adoption about three weeks after we started on our domestic, county adoption. Initially, they chose to adopt from China. They were both under the age of 30, which was too young for Chinese adoption standards. Then they chose Haiti. They flew to Haiti to pick out a daughter from an orphanage. They went through the adoptive coursework through an adoption agency, had all of their shots, home inspections, passports and the whole nine yards all together. The daughter that they chose? W- is still in Haiti. They couldn't get her out. Political unrest makes it far too dangerous for the director of the orphanage that W- resides in to be able to take the paperwork into Port Au Prince. Then they chose Ethiopia. They got an e-mail about their son L-. They were given 2 weeks to go to get him. They pulled everything around and successfully got there and back. He was 22 months old. He and K- are one week apart in birthdays. He was sick. He had worms. He had Giardia. He had Latent TB that caused him to be on medications for 9 months. He was tiny. His teeth will be a continued project for them, as they show that his nutrition in utero was less than wonderful. He came with baggage. L- is a good kid. He is friends with K-. He has a great family that is supportive, but he has some issues to work through. We are fortunate to have an adoptive health center at our local children's hospital that has helped our friends to work through the health issues that L- has had. He is well and developing right on target.

[While standing in line at funeral calling hours, a church member turned to me and started speaking about the daughter's of the gentleman who passed away. One had adopted two children and one had one child by birth.] "You know, B- was the ONLY daughter to give him a grandchild by birth." My response? "Yes, and what does that matter?" Her response? "Oh, look who I'm talking to." -- In other words, she forgot that I was an adoptive parent. I could see how that could happen as K- has just been with us for all but 36 hours of her life. However in forgetting that little fact, she was honest in how her heart felt. How so sad.

"Oh, you can have more children!" -- Um, no. When the doctor tells you after you say, "God forbid, should I get pregnant again what do we do?" Her response was, "We'll take care of you the best that we can and pray." I was given a 90% chance of severe pre-eclampsia reoccurring. Nothing is going to make my blood clotting disorders-- which caused all of the problems that lead to Bailey's death-- go away. We could have attempted heroic measures, but again-- we always knew we would adopt. To us, it wasn't a last ditch. We knew that we would always adopt, period. It took 11 1/2 months for me to get pregnant with Bailey. We had already decided that if it was a tweak with vitamins here or there, it would all be good. We would not take fertility treatments. For us, there were plenty of children that needed good homes and it wasn't a requirement that they have our genes. Again, no offense to those who have gone the fertility drug route. It is not the route for everyone, though.

"I could never trust someone else's genes." My response? "Yes, well sometimes your own genes aren't an option. Besides, your own genes are a crap-shoot as well." -- In the book, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren there is Chapter 2. I called it K-'s adoption chapter. It is entitled "You are not an accident." It talked about how God knew exactly who your parents would be, regardless of whether those would be the actual people God meant to raise you. I cried so hard when I read that chapter. When I read it aloud to Hubs, I couldn't even see the words on the page. I have an absolutely wonderful, albeit cranky kid sometimes, that is beautiful and surprisingly looks like my husband. She has big green eyes, long light brown hair, is tall, a solid build and athletic. We laugh and say that breaking away from the gene pool was a good thing for her. (Neither my husband or I are particularly athletic. Okay, Hubs isn't that bad. Me? I'm dreadful. I can hammer a volleyball really well, but outside of that-- I've got nuthin'.)

"Aren't you so glad that she is white? I mean, it makes your life so much easier." -- I could have absolutely fallen over when I was told this. It was a family member who said this and it was the first time that she was holding K-. K- was a few months old at this time and I did about die. "No. It made no difference to us." It did make a difference to family members though. We made no bones about telling people that we did not care what the race of the child was that we would have placed with us. We also made no gender specification. In the beginning, we had family members give us brochures on international adoption because to adopt an African-American baby, "What would the family think?" "I don't care. If they have an issue with it, that is their own problem. If we have a child of a different race and they are treated differently, we will not be in attendance at family functions." Oh, this flew like a giant lead balloon. My mother had a concern, but I appreciated her asking it. We wanted to have anyone ask anything that they wanted so that we could be forthright and honest with our answers. We wanted to lay everything out that we could on the line so that there were few surprises to family members when our bundle of adopted, lovin' goodness arrived. Mom asked, "If you adopt a biracial baby, then who would they marry? I mean, what if they married into an African-American family?" "We could care less. Just as we don't care about what race our child is, we do not care about the race of who they marry. What we do care about is that whomever it is that they marry, that person treats them wonderfully. Besides, they wouldn't be the only biracial child out there anyhow." At least with my mother asking, we were able to have a conversation bringing up how we want to raise our child. By the way, my mother was the same one who encouraged us to take K-'s biracial brother on a temporary foster basis when K- was only 18 months old. He was born a preemie and had some health issues. She had changed her ideas quickly and wanted us to take him for even just a few weeks, so that K- would have the opportunity to have a sibling in home. Family was interested in having him, which is where he is now. My mom and dad got over their prejudice nature very quick, which needed to be done quite some time ago.

I had the father of a friend pull me aside as we were visiting his daughter-in-law at the hospital to give me his opinion of telling K- that she was adopted. He thought that it was insane and not necessary. "Why would I not tell her? It is a part of the story of how she came to us." He told me about how he felt that it was unnecessary and would make her feel different. "How do I explain the siblings that we have a relationship with?" Oh, he was not in favor of the open family/sibling relationship, either. For us, it is K-'s family. They are their own hodge-podge of kids, but she can look at someone-- particularly her sister J--- and know that there is someone out there that she looks like. She knows that they are her family. The kids have a unique bond. The siblings of sibs are treated just like blood brothers and sisters, as well. To us, brothers and sisters don't come in halves-- they are whole. K-'s whole family is a different structure than what the general most have, but we are thrilled that she has biological family ties.

Please don't think that all the feedback on adoption we've received is negative. This is just a small example of things that I beg everyone not to say. We love our babies. Our parts may be broken. Our parts may not be broken. However, it was all of our hearts desire to adopt a child, bring them into our homes and give them a wonderful life. They are our children. They've always been our children. We just needed the court of law to give us the legal paperwork that says that.


Rach said...

Sometimes when people don't know what to say, it might be better if they just didn't, you know?

Although I haven't adopted, I certainly share your views and I would certainly try to do the same things you have done. (I say "try to" because you honestly don't know how you are going to respond to a situation until you are in it/faced with it, you know?)

ChupieandJ'smama said...

We love all three of you! Don't you just want to tell people to put a sock in it sometimes?

Michelle said...

oh my goodness! I'm amazed at some people's lack of thinking before speaking!