Thursday, April 29, 2010

those eyes

Baby T has beautiful eyes. Stunning really. And I can say that because I played no part in creating them! The first thing strangers comment on when encountering us, is his eyes.

I wonder about those eyes. How will they see the world in the future? Through what lens will they view his story. A story and life determined for him by three adults. How will those eyes look at the pain and loss in his story? Will they find joy and happiness there as well?

When those eyes look at me...really look at me...what do they see? Do those eyes know that I am not his first mom? Not the woman he expected. How will those eyes look at me when he realizes my skin is a different color. Mine the color of privilege and his is not. Do those eyes see my love for him or my uncertainty in the role of mom? Or both.

I, like everyone else, am struck by the beauty in those eyes. I see innocence and unawareness of what is yet to come. I can get lost in those eyes...deep, dark pools. Presently those eyes are observant, always looking and watching, taking everything in. I hurt knowing those eyes will reflect pain, loss, and uncertainty. I understand this is somewhat of a rite of passage that every child, adolescent, and young adult will experience to some degree. But I know there will be an extra layer of grief felt and reflected in those eyes.

Today I look into those dark eyes and smile knowing that for the time being they remain innocent and trusting. The innocence of a child is a beautiful thing.

And I hope I reflect openness and honesty in my eyes as those eyes unravel a story of loss and love.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

oa roundtable - money

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. Click here to link to what other bloggers are writing about this topic.

Does money have an impact on your open adoption?
If so, how? (Could be issues pre- or post-placement, expectations, assumptions, costs of visit activities, travel, gifts--you name it.)

Yes. Money impacts adoption. Many different parts of adoption. In this post I'm only speaking from the adoptive parent perspective. Today, I won't even begin to try to wrap my brain around how more often than not, babies are placed for adoption due to financial insecurity in the first family. This sad truth is very real to me.

Money impacts all of life so it makes perfect sense that adoption is included in this. Money has a power in and of itself. It lives and breaths. I don't mean this in a literal sense. But we (as in our society) have placed a great deal of importance and power on coins and paper. Money can take over and rule us -- this is quite apparent in the current North American society.

When we started our adoption journey we knew money would play a role. But we never knew exactly how much.

I can't even adequately express how it feels to turn down a potential adoption situation because of the bottom line. (Thankfully this only happened a couple of times). With our American agency every adoption came with a different price depending on a variety of things. My heart would sink when the dollar amount was over the top too much. It appears that to build a family through adoption requires wealth on the part of the adoptive family. We know people who would pursue adoption but just can't swing it financially. That is sad. Money does not in any way directly lead to happy families.

Our agency wasn't completely forthright with us about the entire cost of an adoption through them. (They used 2006 numbers in their paperwork). We had no idea it would get so expensive. But once you're in the process, you're in it for good. At least we were. We had to readjust our expectations and in the end just live with the fact that this adoption would require more money than we anticipated.

And how can you put a price tag on building a family?

Part of the reason we chose to adopt a child through the States is because of the open adoption potential. To travel from Canada to the US isn't unreasonable. We imagined family trips to visit our child's first family in our future. Considering our adoption has moved to a semi-open status, trips to the US are not imminent. But really we wouldn't be able to visit anyway because guessed We are tapped out and won't be able to vacation for quite some time.

What I can do is send Christmas and birthday presents, cards and pictures. (And hope she gets them). But money permeates this part of the adoption experience as well, as I wonder how much is appropriate to spend on gifts.

So, yes, money impacts adoption greatly. From decisions about agencies all the way to birthday presents.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

baby t's first life book

Last week, a good friend (whose daughter entered their family through adoption) and I finished making life books for our kids. A project, discussed many times in the past six months, which basically took us three nights to complete. And I love it!

After seriously pondering what sort of paper/binding we would use for this book, I stumbled across blank, white board books for sale at Michaels. (Who knew you could buy blank board books?!). With that discovery we decided to make very simple preschool friendly books with one picture and a bit of text on each page.

The most daunting task was trying to figure out the text. How do you explain placement in two preschool friendly sentences? My friend and I spent an entire evening together writing simple sentences and picking pictures to tell a story.

Then we agonized over how to put the book together. Would double sided tape be sufficient to hold pictures in place? Heaven forbid we'd actually need to hand write the text! And how long would this book last in the hands of a child?

Then the discovery...

Contact paper. Brilliant.

After a late night run to Home Depot to purchase clear contact paper, as I had mistakenly bought frosty paper (they should really label it more clearly!), it took us two late evenings with Starbucks in hand to complete the books.

No hand writing. We printed out the text and pasted it in place.
No worries about little fingers touching pictures and the longevity of the book.

Contact paper really saved the day. (I'm actually not joking here...this was a major turning point in our book making!).

I absolutely love how the books turned out. Although our adoption stories are different, it was an absolute pleasure to design, write, and complete such an important book with such a good friend. T's life book will be one among many in his basket of board books. One that I hope we'll read together many times in the next few years.

And in the end, if the book falls apart I suppose that is a good thing, as then baby T will become familiar with his story and a very important woman who plays a central role.

Friday, April 9, 2010

dear first mommy

Baby T turned 7 months old this week. This means I'm in the process of preparing a monthly update for J. These letters are a bit daunting. How do I adequately express who this little boy is becoming on paper? What are the best words to use to describe the love I have for her son?

So today as I ponder about what to include in T's 7 month update, I wonder about J. What is it that she would like to know?

Would she like to hear about T's second emergency room visit because of wheezy breathing? And how the doctor asked us if there is asthma in his family history?

Does she want to know about all the super cute things he's doing and how he's developing? Or will that make her miss him even more?

How would she feel knowing that I've been asking strangers for advice on how to manage T's hair? When all I'd really like to do is ask her.

Does she want to hear about how some days are hard? And others are easy?

Would she like to know that at times I struggle claiming the identity of "mom" as my own?

What sort of pictures would she like? Does she only want ones of T or is it okay to include a family picture or two?

Does she want to hear about how D and I are doing in general? Know about our jobs and everyday life?

Would she like to know that every person who meets baby T is completely captivated by his big, brown beautiful eyes? Her eyes.

Is she tired of me expressing our happiness at becoming parents and how we've been blessed beyond belief?

Does she really know how much we respect her and love her? That she is an integral part of our family? That we feel loss because she isn't present?

And there are so many things that I would like to know about her. But most of all I'd like to know how she's doing after placement. Does she have support? In what ways can I help her process the grief? What are we doing that is making the process harder?

What we hoped would be a fully open adoption has become semi-open. There are reasons for this but it still doesn't make it easier to swallow. I sincerely hope that in the future we will be able to develop more open lines of communication with J. And if that needs to still include our agency then so be it. Either way, it's so important for me to connect with her. For T.

Maybe someday. I still have hope. In the meantime, time to work on the update letter. And pick some adorable pics to send of our son.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

one more forever family party pic

Let's just say there was icing everywhere!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

it's all about the hair

Admittedly there are times that baby T's hair and skin care stress me out just a teensy bit! And he's a boy...can't imagine the time and energy that goes into caring for the hair of a girl.

T had his first haircut at 4 months. It was so frizzy, fuzzy, and long on top as well as at the back underneath the stellar bald spot he was sporting. My hairdresser, who was very comfortable cutting T's hair, just trimmed it up and shaved a bit at the back. When I saw him after the cut I almost had tears in my eyes...gone was my baby and here was this big boy smiling at me. (And for all of you that know us personally...yes, I am very aware that my baby has been a big boy for quite some time now!).

His hair is getting longer and a bit fuzzy on the top again and I wasn't sure what to do. Do I get it cut again? Am I using the special hair products correctly? Is there something else I should be doing?

I have no problems asking for advice when it comes to this sort of thing. So this week I ventured out to a new hair salon owned by a black couple. A friend of mine is running their communications and marketing campaign so I had heard of this new boutique already and then a few fellow white moms with brown children had spoken with the owner and had great things to say. I felt this would be a good place to start asking some of my questions specific to T's hair and skin.

I walked into the salon and was greeted by three lovely ladies who immediately fell all over T proclaiming his cuteness! The owner was one of these women and she greeted us with such warmth and openness. I'm always just a tad bit nervous when approaching people of color because I'm not entirely sure what they will think about my family. I love the way my family looks but not everyone else will. The salon owner didn't even hesitate once during our conversation about T and as we chatted I became more and more comfortable with her.

We talked about T's hair and skin for probably 20 minutes. I told her about the "it's a curl" products we are using (shampoo, wash-out conditioner, and leave-in conditioner). I asked her about daily hair care. We chatted a bit about other products available. And finally I asked some questions about skin care.

Turns out we are doing a fairly good job at keeping our munchkin looking good! I did learn something really important tough. She sprayed some leave-in conditioner on T's hair and combed it. As I watched her I realized that she had just inadvertently taught me to comb his hair! Such a seemingly simple task and for most white moms of white children this is a no brainer. The next day I used my leave-in conditioner and combed it the same way she did and success! His hair looks so much better for longer during the day now.

The other thing we've done to improve the look of his hair is start using satin. A friend sewed a lovely blue satin band that fits around T's crib mattress. So baby T sleeps on satin and it really does work to keep his hair looking nice after naps.

I will go back to this salon in the future. It's really important to me that T's hair is cut by someone who knows what they are doing and that this person has brown skin. In the end I didn't purchase anything from the salon but I gained some valuable advice. The owner gave me her card with her email address on it and said to email or call anytime with questions. How sweet and I will definitely take her up on that offer. I've also been thinking about ways she may be able to connect with other transracial families that live here. I'd love to attend a class about hair and skin care for brown babies. I might have to put the bug in her ear!

So the hair is looking pretty good around here.

Now if I could only figure out how to stop people from messing with his hair...