Friday, October 31, 2008

about transracial parenting

I recently came across this post called, "Ebony. Ivory. Perplexity." The author of the post is a white mother with 2 African American boys through adoption. Take a read through her thoughtful essay. It's a bit long but really worth the read!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

pros of a childless life

I acknowledge that I take the perks of a childless life for granted! To embrace my time of waiting, I will also embrace what I enjoy about my current lifestyle and not so quickly wish it away.

So, in no particular order (although I do love my sleep!) my current lifestyle allows me:
  • To sleep in on the weekend
  • More specifically, uninterrupted sleep (except for when my cat gets hungry!)
  • To come and go as I please
  • More uninterrupted time with my hubby
  • To not have to worry about always modeling healthy behaviours
  • The benefits of a double income
  • To be selfish and shop just for me
  • More time to invest in relationships with friends
  • To watch a TV show from beginning to end
  • Time to do the things that I really enjoy like reading, scrapbooking, and going to the ballet
  • Etc. etc.
To have such freedom is really quite grand!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

tooting my tiny horn


Today I will take a break from writing about adoption because today is the day that I officially graduate from my Master's program! Hard to believe that I actually finished it...there were many moments when I wasn't so sure if I could go through with it all. When I enrolled in the program 2 1/2 years ago I wondered what might happen with my school plans since we were trying to have a family. Obviously, nothing has interferred with my schooling and I finished the degree well before we'll have a family. But I have become a big believer in making plans based on where life is currently at and not some future hope or desire. I've heard so many people talk about how unhappy they are at their job or some other situation but yet they don't make changes "just in case" they get pregnant. Well, how do you know if that "just in case" (whatever it is) will happen in a timely fashion? If I had listened to that "just in case" instinct I wouldn't have enrolled in graduate school and wouldn't be where I am today. You just really don't know where life will take you so all you can do is make decisions based on the information available at the time.

Anyway, yeah for me today!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

please don't say...#2

When you discover that someone is planning to adopt a child, please don’t say…”You can take (or borrow) mine for awhile!”

This statement completely minimizes the adoption process. Firstly, and most importantly, this minimizes what expectant mothers experience as they contemplate their options and consider making an adoption plan for their child. First mothers who relinquish rights do not make half-hearted decisions. This is not an “off the cuff” sort of thing so to casually offer your child to anyone is disrespectful of adoptee’s first families. Secondly, this statement minimizes what the prospective adoptive parents are going through in general and their possible process of walking through infertility. You may have been able to easily reproduce but many others have not, so don’t flaunt your offspring through casual offers. Plus, what would you do or say if someone actually said "yes!" to the offer?

Okay…was that a bit harsh? Possibly, but it needed to be said. This is how I have felt when someone “offers” their kids to me (yes, this has happened more then once). I get that raising kids is tough and frustrating, but the next time you’re willing to lend them out think about what that statement may portray to others.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

book recommendation on kids and race

I'm currently reading an excellent book on race and child development called "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World." This book isn't about adoption but as a future transracial family the topic is quite relevant to us. This is from the back cover:

"I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla teaches parents and educators of black and biracial children how to reduce racism's impact on a child's development - from preschool through adolescence - and in doing so to raise emotionally healthy children."

I'm about a third of the way through the book (just finished the preschool years!) and would highly recommend it to any transracial adoptive family. I would actually recommend this book to anyone who knows and interacts with children of color...especially teachers.

*A note to my family and friends...if interested, I'd be more then willing to lend it out!

Friday, October 24, 2008

what completes you?

Is it your spouse? Your family? Your friends? Your job? Your house or car? Is it Jerry McGuire? (couldn’t resist that one!).

This is a question that I have spent some time with lately. What is it that completes me?

I think that most people would answer that family and friends are top priorities in life but I would beg to differ. All you have to do is take a good look at our North American culture to see that many people in fact put other things first in life such as a job, financial security, and accumulation of stuff. Others would answer that God or faith is a top priority, but again I question the truth in that statement (this is such a Sunday School answer). If God were truly a priority in our lives I believe that the world would be a much different place.

When we were unsure if our adoption process would move forward because of the Hague Treaty I really began to take a good look at where my center was and what completes me. Would I be able to be joyful without a family? Was my center focused on having a child and then I would finally be complete and whole as a woman? My honest answer to those questions would be, “no” and “yes”. It was then that I realized that I needed to re-shift my focus and re-center myself. Even though I do feel that family is important for a variety of reasons, this can not be what completes me. I think it’s partly infertility that throws many women off their center. Infertility takes over your life. You live and breathe it every day…every month. Having a baby becomes your focus. This easily occurs because when there is something that you want, that you can’t/don’t have, you start to see it EVERYWHERE around you!

I’ve been working at really putting God at my center, this is especially important to me during my waiting time. It’s very easy for me to be consumed by adoption and feel that everything in my world will finally be right once we get that one magical phone call. With this as my center I do believe that I will drive myself nuts and be obsessed! I daily remind myself of the truth that it is the Lord who completes me…not D and not a child. When I sit in the room that will hopefully one day become a baby room, I pray for God to fill me with his joy and presence and not stress that the room is empty.

Have I got this all figured out? Absolutely not!
Do I always feel at peace about the waiting and knowledge that God is what completes me? Nope!
Do I still stress about when I’m finally going to be a mom? Yep!

But I take great solace in the ways that God is working on my spirit. I turn to Him more quickly these days for peace in my heart. And my prayer is to honor who God is while waiting.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

please don't say...#1

When you discover that someone without biological kids is planning to adopt a child, please don’t say…”Now you’re going to get pregnant!”

The stars and planets don’t line up in some magical way to cause conception as soon as the ink has dried on an adoption application form. The statistics do not show that more people become pregnant when they decide to pursue adoption. This is just simply not true.

And if someone does end up pregnant while they are in the adoption process please don’t automatically assume that they won’t want to adopt any more. Many of us who are in this, are in it for good. When D and I decided to pursue adoption we talked about what we would do if somewhere in this process we became pregnant. All along we have been completely in this, we know that at least one of our kids will be adopted regardless if we conceive or not. You can’t be in this 50%...not with all the paperwork and agency headaches! When someone in the adoption process becomes pregnant and now has to stop the process (in Canada you have to wait until the bio kid is at least 6m before pursuing adoption), please acknowledge their grief for the child they were expecting and anticipating through adoption.

And lastly, ALL babies are miracles. People have said that they are praying for us to have a “miracle baby.” We WILL have a miracle baby through adoption (and not in that it’s a miracle because it’s God’s divine plan kind of way) simply because I believe that every time a child enters the world it is a miracle. To be pregnant and in crisis is not a good situation, but the fact that conception took place is in and of itself a miracle. Egg and sperm meet in a hostile environment, it’s a wonder that anyone conceives! (Was that too much information?!).

Monday, October 20, 2008

checking my adoption compass

Okay...I admit it...I spend quite a bit of time online! This is not a waste of time (honest!). This is my time of learning and discovery about the world of adoption. I regularly follow a few adoptee, first parent, and adoptive parent blogs who graciously allow strangers a glimpse into their lives. Who better to learn from then those who are right in the thick of it? I must admit that I have chosen these specific blogs for their balanced view of adoption, recognizing the beauty and blessing as well as the loss and trials. Extreme views on either end aren't healthy or helpful.

I found this post "if you are about to adopt - reset your compass" during the weekend that I wish I would have read months ago. Although I must say that I may not have been ready to read a post like this months ago. There is something to be said for easing ones way into something. We had to read a couple of books for our American agency application process and answer some questions about them. Now looking back I realize how fluffy those books were, but they served a purpose in our process. I do believe that agencies need to do a better job of educating and preparing prospective adoptive parents (I've forwarded the above linked post to our social worker) but maybe we wouldn't have been ready to listen. When applying to adopt our heads and hearts were in the clouds. I don't know if anyone or anything would have been able to bring us down and this too is important to acknowledge as a part of our process. Because now, when in the middle of the night I have questions about adoption and my future family, I am reminded of our very definite, educated (as much as we were at the time) decision. We have always had both feet in this. Not one foot in fertility treatments, one foot in adoption. Two feet...solidly planted in adoption.

I completely agree with the author of this post when she refers to God not causing crisis in any woman's life so that my destiny or some divine plan with a particular child could be fulfilled. I get very uncomfortable when people refer to adoption in this way. However, I do believe that God provided guidance and leading for us when we struggled with what to do about having a family. (This is a story for another day!). We chose not to pursue IVF for ethical reasons, but little did we know the ethical arena we would enter the day we signed our adoption application form. This makes me wonder if it was any of my business to mess with having kids or not. If someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness they can't choose it away. Is this what I have done by choosing adoption? Was I to remain childless but then look for other ways to mother? Perhaps spend more time as a mentor with the teen moms group I was a part of last year? Be a role model to a child living in a tough situation? These are tough questions for me and I don't have the answers. But what I do know is that I continue to feel lead by God in the process of adoption. I think God knows me well (of course!). He knows that I can get so over my head in an issue that I need to be able to grab a dingy so as to come up for air. That dingy for me is the day I truly felt God guiding our feet. I completely believe that we have free choice and in the end did choose to pursue adoption. But God was right there along side of us the whole time.

So I will continue to check my adoption compass. I know a part of the journey for me is to dig deep and work through the issues that arise. I also know that when I need to come up for air, there is a Higher Power who holds the compass for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

julia's JAM

I just finished reading Julia's blog from start to finish. I am struck at how emotional I feel. Her writing was so beautiful and insightful. I have learned much about transracial adoption through her posts and feel that she has better prepared me for my future as a mother. I wish that I had known her and that she was still alive today to continue educating adoptive parents in a most honest, caring, and real way. As my journey into motherhood continues I am certain that I will remember many of the words, stories, and truths that she spoke.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

my struggle

I debated writing this post but then decided that all of this is about me being real with myself and learning through the process. So at the risk of making myself look like an inconsiderate schmuck, here goes.

My struggle is with some women who are pregnant and/or have infants. I don't struggle so much with the want/need to be/get pregnant but rather it is the "woe is me" stories that I hear all to often from this demographic.

I can't find any nice maternity clothes

I have stretch marks

My labor was the worst...let me tell you...(is their some competition to have the best worst story?!)
Breastfeeding is a lot of work

The first post I ever read on one of my favourite adoptive mother blogs was titled "at least". That post has stayed with me and likely always will. She writes about how many people pull the "at least" card when speaking about some issue in life to show that the issue isn't as bad as you really thought because others have it worse. I do believe that everyone experiences certain things as "their worst" at certain times in life no matter what anyone thinks about the situation. For example, shortly after my father's sudden death, someone I know experienced a miscarriage but didn't really want to tell me because she felt that her concern was much less of an issue then what I was going through at the time. I agree that I was going through some major grief but yet at the same time she was also grieving and I worked to allow her that space.

I continue to work at not using the words "at least" when someone shares a concern (sometimes I'm successful, other times not so much), but man, do I ever struggle when the concern is pregnancy or infant related. I have very little patience for these concerns and in my head I'm screaming, "at least you get to breastfeed" "at least you have a family" "at least you didn't have to get 10 people to approve you capable of becoming a mother."

It seems I have some work to do in this area! It's obviously such an emotionally charged topic for me. But I need to learn how to create space for people to struggle with pregnancy and early motherhood. Maybe my feelings will change once I am a mother and I will be able to relate on some level with these women, but until then I guess I'm re-enrolling in "empathic listening 101!"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

paperwork update

Our paperwork arrived at the American agency mid-September and it's now making its way through the approval process which means 5 board members need to read through it with a fine tooth comb. Our file passed the first board member and it is now sitting with the second who apparently ensures that every "i" is doted and "t" is crossed so to speak. This approval process will take ~ 6-8 weeks (we're 3 weeks in).

I wonder how many people need to read the intimate details of my life before I can once and for all be approved to become a mother? Let me count them:

1 social worker
2 provincial agency directors
1 provincial central authority
1 person in Ottawa to authenticate the file
5 american agency board members

Mmm...10 people. That seems like overkill to me, but alas it is what it is. Family planning shouldn't ever be this hard.

Monday, October 6, 2008

colorblindness - outsiders within

One of my favourite chapters in "Outsiders Within" is titled "Scattered Seeds: The Christian Influence on Korean Adoption" by Jae Ran Kim.

Is this song familiar to you?

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

This is from Jae Ran Kim:
"We must not forget that at the core of transracial adoption, children of color are being adopted by white parents. White parents may feel that they are exempt from being racist; after all, they adopted a child of another race. Yet through promoting the "we are all God's children" mentality, Christianity breeds a sort of colorblindness that is often as dangerous to a child of color as overt racism. This mentality often leads to statements such as, "I don't see [child's name] as Korean, she's just my daughter."

Colorblindness is an ideal. Racism and discrimination are alive and well. I've personally heard transracial adoptive parents say that they don't see their child as black...but guess what...the rest of the world does! I believe in equity and civil rights etc. but I need to be aware of the ugliness that exists in the world and learn how to best prepare a child of color. A few weeks ago I read this post called Seeing Color. In this post an adoptive mother of a child from China writes about how it is important for the world to see her daughter's color but judge her character. I love the way she writes about this important part of being a transracial family. Read her post, it's really good and way more articulate then I could ever be!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

outsiders within explained

I figured that I should explain the title of the book before launching into other insights I gleaned from reading it!

Essentially the authors of the book, who are all transracial adoptees, in one way or another write about how they felt/continue to feel like outsiders because of growing up in a predominantly white community/society. However, growing up in the dominant culture has also given these adoptees from different cultural and racial backgrounds insight into the dominant white community. So while many of the authors of this book refer to profound feelings of being an outsider they also acknowledge that they hold powerful insight from being within mainstream society. The "outsider within" standpoint enables transracial adoptees to gain unique insights that may not be available to those who share the worldview of the dominant community/culture.

"We on the periphery, learning, and watching from the outside, have a particular power with revolutionary roots." Kim Diehl

Who better to share their experience then those living it? This is why I'm choosing to do more reading from the adoptee perspective. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is either considering transracial adoption or is already parenting a transracial adoptee. We can't limit our understanding of adoption to just what we hear from the agencies or read in Adoptive Families magazine. I believe that each member of the triad (adoptee, birthparents, adoptive parents) deserves a voice. Now if we could only get some of these agencies and social workers who work in adoption to understand that...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

outsiders within

I just finished reading "Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption." Fascinating book. It was hard to read at times for various reasons but in the end I'm glad I pushed through. I feel as though I've been able to work through some issues related to transracial adoption that the authors raise and this can only be a good thing for me and my future family. I'd love to write an insightful book review but that's not really my style and would remind me WAY too much of school (which I just finished, so no more!!). But instead I thought for some of my future posts I would include a few quotes from my favourite chapters and hope that will give you a sense of the book. Warning: these quotes do not paint adoption as all sunshine and roses and will be controversial.

Chapter 10: Shopping for Children in the International Marketplace by Kim Park Nelson

"This chapter highlights the power differences between white people and people of color, the rich and the poor, the more and less empowered in the adoption circle. Parents are willing to support the growing and expensive transnational adoption industry to acquire children with whom to build family. Parents in [North America] view themselves as superior to parents in poor countries, further easing their decision to adopt transnationally. They simultaneously see their foreign-adopted children as enriching, authentically exotic, and yet part of the family, therefore no different from the parents themselves. These views enable these parents to reproduce their own white privilege through the act of transnational adoption. Transnational adoption "how-to" guides for parents show that many prospective parents are aware of how to take advantage of the adoption market and, more pointedly, see themselves as more deserving of the parenting experience than parents in poor countries. Racial and cultural literacy is not viewed as a prerequisite for parenting children of color, to the detriment of the children who are exchanged as commodities in the international adoption marketplace."

Not easy reading hey?! The author of this chapter reviewed some popular guides written for prospective adoptive parents on how to make foreign adoption work. These books are generally written by adoptive parents which obviously means they tend to be one-sided. Remember that the above quote is written by a transracial adoptee. The author speaks quite harshly about the ways children have become commodities and rightly so I think (one of my earlier posts was on this same issue). I was struck at how the author defined white privilege and transracial adoptions. I am mostly concerned from the author's review at the lack of preparation that many adoption agencies/guides take to arm prospective adoptive parents with knowledge on cultural and racial literacy. I would say that almost all of what I have learned about transracial parenting has been from my own research.

Stay tuned for the next quote!