Please visit the link below to read about the foster care epidemic and how you can help.
Please visit the link below to read about the foster care epidemic and how you can help.
Dear Birth Father,
You often get the shaft because I don’t talk about you often, especially compared to their birth mother.
I wonder, does that bother you?
I’m sorry – I don’t mean to minimize the importance of you in my daughters’ lives.
You see, it’s easier to talk about their birth mother when explaining this whole adoption thing. She carried them in her “tummy” and although they don’t yet know the details of how a baby gets from inside her to the outside world, they do understand she gave birth to them.
Let’s face it, it’s pretty black and white: Daughters, you came out of her, you are part of her.
I’m not sure how to make the connection between you and them until they learn The Facts of Life.
And I’m not ready yet to have that talk with them…
Another reason I don’t talk about you much: I don’t know you as well. In fact, we’ve only met a handful of times. And aside from only one of those times, I don’t think I was getting to know the Real You; I think I was talking to the This is Who I Want You to See.
I don’t blame you for that – it’s probably how you survived your dysfunctional family, the foster homes, and your years in prison.
My third reason: It’s difficult to initiate conversation when you don’t know the topic. When the girls ask me questions about you, most of the time I don’t know the answers.
I can tell them their birth mother’s favorite color is turquoise but for all I know, you’re color blind.
I wish I could pass on more information about the other half of them – the half you’ve contributed – but I can’t.
Perhaps someday you will meet them and tell them your favorite color. Perhaps I, too, will learn your favorite color.
I hope someday I get to know you, the Real You, and love you with the same complexity I love their birth mother.
But until that time comes, please know I hold you in my heart and honor your role in their lives as best I can.
I wanted to be the homemade chocolate chip cookie mom. Before the children were placed with us I practiced. I tried all different recipes. I used different ingredients. Organic flour, cake flour, semi-sweet chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips. I practiced making cookies from scratch like it was my job. Then I brought batches of […]
Excellent post by Herding Chickens… Of course, her posts are always excellent: encouraging, humorous and wise.
The other day, I read and participated in a Twitter conversation about adoption trauma.
Here’s the background of the conversation:
The person who retweeted this article disagreed. He works as a developmental psychologist with children affected by abuse and neglect, who enter the foster care system. His assertion was that adoption heals trauma.
Of course, this is a highly emotional subject and as you can imagine, some strong words were exchanged. I’m not writing this post to get into a debate or piss anyone off, but share my point of view.
Rather, this Twitter exchange got me thinking about adoption and trauma, so much so that I’ll probably post more thoughts on this subject.
But before going any further, we need to define trauma:
According to the English Oxford Dictionary trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience.
As a foster-adopt mother, I get a bad taste in my mouth when I hear someone say adoption is trauma. I am raising two girls, both of whom have experienced trauma through neglect, intrauterine drug exposure, and perhaps other adverse early childhood experiences. I spend each day trying to undo their subconscious reactions to the trauma they lived through.
But when someone says adoption/being adopted is a distressing experience, I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction. I
am willing want to follow up with “Why do you say that?” or “What do you mean by that?”
I’m not advocating anyone change the words they use to describe their adoption experience, but rather we all try to understand the meaning behind the words.
After all, we’re all in this together.
One of May’s topics from Erin Bohn’s Adoption Talk Link-up was Why did you choose adoption? I went with her other topic, What’s the Best Advice You’ve ever Gotten, but today I’m going to address why my husband and I chose to adopt.
WHY WE CHOSE ADOPTION
Many people adopt because they’re unable to have their own biological children; however, that was not the case for my husband and I. Our hearts broke knowing there are children in the foster care system who age out of the system without knowing the permanency of family.
Shenandoah Chefalo talks about this in her memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase.
Andrew and I wished to provide a home for a child (or two, as it so happened) in the system.
Admittedly, it was partly selfish, too. I hated being pregnant. I had a rare condition called cholestasis, and a very difficult delivery (almost 48 hours of labor, four hours of pushing), and had no desire to go through that EVER again.
People say you forget all about the pain and discomfort after it’s over.
In my defense, though, we made this choice before I got pregnant.
As cheesy as it sounds, I always wanted to make a difference in the world. It was the motivation behind every career I dreamed of as a child: nun, psychologist, occupational therapist.
And now, writer.
Many adoptees get upset because they don’t want to be viewed as a charity case. I don’t look at my daughters, or any other adopted person, as a charity case.
I look at it as being practical. Why would I go through the hell of pregnancy, labor and delivery again when there are children in the foster care system who need homes?
And that why I chose adoption.
The journey to adopting my daughters could be summed up in with one sentence:
In his heart a man plans his course but the LORD determines his steps.
When Andrew and I began the adoption process, we were looking to adopt a child around 5-8 years. Because we had learned in our foster-adoption classes that older black boys were the least desirable* and most difficult to place, we filled out the pre-placement adoption paperwork with that in mind.
What we planned to do and what we did ended up being two completely different things…
Paige, a white baby girl, was three months old when we began visits, and five months old when she moved in. Even though she had severe drug withdrawal, she was still considered the most sought-after type of child.*
Payton, her older sister, came to live with us just before she turned three. As a young white child, she was also considered highly adoptable.*
Andrew and I did not have problems conceiving nor did we desire another baby, which was why we didn’t want to adopt an infant, or even a three-year-old.
So, how did we veer so far from our planned course?
Ruth: The mother of my daughters.**
The whole story started when I became Ruth’s birth coach. My plan wasn’t to adopt Ruth’s baby but that’s what happened. And then we adopted Payton, Ruth’s older daughter when they were unable to reunify.
I was thinking about all this tonight while walking my dog because Ruth and I met for coffee today. Things are still up in the air about how and when we will open up the adoption; however, there is one thing we both know without a shadow of a doubt.
It was God’s plan that we meet and be the mothers of these two beautiful girls.
* These aren’t my words but what we were told in our foster-adopt classes and by the social workers.
** For the most part, I’ve decided to forgo any sort of qualifier when referencing Ruth. She is the mother of my daughters, just as I am the mother of her daughters.
The following is a post from my other blog, which has since been taken down. I thought it worthwhile to share as we approaching the one-year mark since this occurred:
Today is the month of school for my kiddos. You’re probably expecting a blog post about my kids, all their milestones, my hopes and dreams, etc.
But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
I want to introduce Bonnie, the dog we adopted from the shelter.
I named her Bonnie for two reasons:
I’ve used the new addition to our family to talk about adoption.
“We’re giving Bonnie a home because she needs someone to take care of her. She will be part of the family and live with us forever.” (barring the cats acting out…)
Although I didn’t state directly how Bonnie’s situation correlates with theirs, I hope the message got through on some level.
Adopt has numerous meanings but these three are especially fitting for the situation surrounding Payton and Paige, and Bonnie:
Number one reminds me that adopting Payton and Paige was not an accident or unplanned event, it was a choice. We chose to help them, help their biological family, and expand our family through adoption.
Number three points out that not only did I enter a new relationship by becoming the mother of two little girls, they went into a new relationship with a different mother.
Even though the second definition is technically how all three of them became part of our family, I find myself preferring the first and third definitions more.
Because adoption is more than a formal legal act, it is a choice to enter a new relationship.
I think of you every Mother’s Day.
I’ve always wanted to give you a card expressing my love for you. Unfortunately, no such card exists. So I decided to write one.
After all, aren’t the homemade gifts the best?
Happy Mother’s Day to my Daughters’ Mother
I see you reflected in their eyes
glimpses of your sunshine in their smiles
As a child connected to her mother by umbilical cord
I am connected to you by love for them
both of us a life source for these radiant flowers
I wipe their tears with your fingers
embrace them with your arms
watch them play with your eyes
hear their giggles with your ears
I feel you through the miles
these moments of connection
between you, me, our daughters
You are my sister
as they are sisters
and like all sister bonds
Happy Mother’s Day to one of the strongest, most beautiful and inspirational women I know.
Today is Erin Bohn’s monthly Adoption Talk Linkup.
If you have something to say about adoption or need some support, click on the link above or the badge in my sidebar. This is a link up for all members of the adoption triad.
There are two possible topics for this week:
I’m choosing the latter topic for today and will blog about the first topic next week.
The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from my cousin, Karen. After giving birth to my biological son, Eli, she told me:
“No matter what other people think, listen to what your intuition. They may have the best intentions but you’re his mom and you know what’s best.”
And she was right.
As much as I tried to rationalize what my intuition was telling me, I knew there was something going on with Payton, my older adopted daughter.
Payton moved in with us just before she turned three. We expected acting out as she adjusted to her new living situation; however, we were surprised by the frequency, intensity, and duration.
But the real clue there was something off had to do with her lack of affection. She was only expressive when:
But to the outside world, she seemed like a well-adjusted child.
When I tried to speak with other parents about our these things, they would say things like:
Finally, we got to the end of our rope and sought therapy.
And the therapist validated what my intuition had been telling me for over a year.
“It sounds like attachment issues,” she told us.
Because I listened to my intuition saying Payton’s behaviors weren’t typical, we found an excellent therapist who has helped our family immensely.
I don’t think Payton would be doing so well if I hadn’t followed my intuition.
I don’t think I would be doing so well.
So this is my piece of advice to all parents: Listen to your intuition.
I upset you a while back when I wrote a blog post titled, Adoption Pet Peeves. Believe me when I say that was not my intention. My hope is the edited blog posts will clarify my intent.
A section of the original post is italicized. I’ve added comments/clarifications in bold.
I’m starting with the part of the post that caused the most upset:
“I have been told that I’m a wonderful person for adopting a child through foster care; most people couldn’t do it. Breaking news! Having a biological child is a crap shoot just as much as adopting a child through foster care. [I don’t sugarcoat things. My daughters’ parents are drug addicts/recovering drug addicts; the 16 scars from my heart surgery are ugly; my husband is bald. You get the picture.] In some ways, having a biological child is even more risky!
There is no “return policy“ [I just added quotes to return policy so you know I’m not using this term lightly. I phrased it this way to make my writing succinct, not disrespectful.] on your biological child but, believe or not, there is with an adopted child. [I included believe it or not in the original post to express my surprise, not to promote adopting because you can dissolve it.]
A trial period of at least six months is required before you can finalize. You also have two weeks post adoption to change your mind. [When this was explained to my husband and me when we signed the adoption papers, I was surprised. Guess I should have included believe it or not here as well.]
Regardless of this somewhat controversial fact, [I say somewhat because I believe the six-month trial period is a good thing. Children adopted through foster care have been through a lot. Making sure the family and child are a good fit is a good idea to prevent further upheaval in the child’s life.]
[THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH WAS MY WHOLE POINT OF THIS PART OF THE BLOG POST. It was originally written about five years ago as a note on my Facebook page. Its intended audience was friends who have no experience with adoption. My hope was the tongue-and-cheek wording would demonstrate how absurd it was to say I was a wonderful person for adopting through foster care.] I think there is something even more important to consider: Why do you want children? Is it for selfish reasons? Or is it to unconditionally love and raise a child, regardless of challenges and joys?”
So there you have it, Dear Adoptee – the intention behind this post. Please forgive me for not taking into consideration how these words could effect you.
Dear Adoptee, I love you and support you on your journey.