March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: Sharing Your Adoption Story May be Helpful to Others

When my adopted daughter turned five, I started writing down the details of her adoption to help her understand why we wanted to adopt our third child and what we went through to find her.  I wanted her to have the answers if she ever had questions as a child or more likely, as an adult.  I was worried I might forget some details as the years went by, so I wrote down the story for her.  Five years later, I have begun to share the story of our daughter’s adoption with others, giving me a whole new perspective on it.

I have been amazed that current parents as well as childless couples, friends and mere acquaintances, take such an interest in our adoption story when told casually at luncheons, dinner parties, or when meeting people over the past few years.  The story is somewhat complicated, yet fairly brief since our daughter was born and placed in my arms only 20 days after we received “the call”.  The emotional aspects of the story, the issues we faced, and the decisions we had to make along the adoption journey seem to fascinate people who may be headed down the same path or may want to support someone considering adoption.

As I have recounted our personal story, I’ve noticed that each person takes interest in a different aspect of it, depending on their situation or needs. Since we already had two children before adopting, we were worried how a new baby would affect our family as a whole.  People who are in the same situation ask related questions and wonder how our family adjusted to life with a newly adopted baby.  We were also afraid that the birthmother could change her mind at the last minute, disappointing us and more importantly, our children. The risks involved in our adoption were the most difficult elements for us to deal with and people hesitant to take those risks themselves are interested in how that felt.

The most gratifying result of telling our story, personally and in this blog, has been the number of couples who have reached out to us for support through their adoption process.   We have enjoyed helping friends, and friends of friends, find their adopted children after months, or years, of being ChildDrenched.  Wanting a child and being unable to conceive is often the most excruciating time in people’s lives.  Helping people escape that pain is rewarding and if our story helps people acquire the courage to move forward with adoption, I am more fulfilled and genuinely happy.

I realize there are many people who currently face the same emotional turmoil I did before adopting.  I also know that there are even more adoptive parents who are ecstatic about their families after adopting their children.  I hope to encourage those parents to talk about their journeys, the good experiences and the challenging issues, so others will understand more about adoption.  We have read about the famous Hollywood stars who have adopted children but few of them have written down their stories to share with others.  I find that disappointing because those stories may help build optimism for others.

My original objective of writing the details of our adoption story was for my daughter but since finishing the project, I feel the need to reach out to people who are ChildDrenched, and people who are interested in helping friends or relatives they know who are ChildDrenched.  I have completed a full memoir about our story so hopefully, others who are considering adoption will gain the strength it takes to start the process after reading it.  My book will soon be published and I hope people will appreciate the reasons why I wrote it.

The personal account of my journey exposes years of painful emotions that led to the decision to adopt and the issues we faced throughout the process.  When I think back upon that journey, I truly appreciate the subsequent years of joy our daughter has brought to our lives that much more.  Our adoption story is my gift to others; it’s a way of giving back for the love, joy and pleasure I have enjoyed through my daughter.  I hope others will share their stories by commenting on this blog or in another medium.  In this world we live in, supporting each other is what makes us all more compassionate and tolerant of differences, which is what we all need to teach our children.

Today’s Drip: Adoption is a Calling for Some Celebrities

Everyone looks at life with a different perspective; there are no right answers. People make choices in life and hopefully, take the right path for them when confronting a situation.  For people who are ChildDrenched—drowning in the passionate need for a child — adoption can be a wonderful answer.  For some, adoption is the answer to months or years of praying for a child.  For others, adoption is a calling, as much of a calling as wanting to experience pregnancy and give birth.

This week, I became aware of two recent celebrity adoptions.  Their stories resonated with me for different reasons.  Actress Charlize Theron, age 36, appeared on Live with Kelly on June 1st to discuss her recent adoption of a black baby boy she named Jackson from an American orphanage last March.   “I always knew I would adopt. Always,” she said.  For her, adoption was a calling from when she was a child. “My mother found a letter I wrote 28 years ago. It said, ‘Would you please take me to an orphanage so that I can go and adopt a baby?'” Ms.Theron said she hopes the relationship she creates with her son mirrors the one she has with her mom. “[I hope] to be like my mom– fair, tough, loving and supportive. My mom has made it possible for me to be who I am. Our family is everything,” she explained.

Her story struck me because I too, always wanted to connect with my children the same way my mother connected with me.  However, I was surprised to hear about her “calling” to be an adoptive mother from childhood.  I looked toward adoption because I was ChildDrenched and unable to conceive my third child.  Ms.Theron always intended to adopt, regardless of her fertility.  Ms.Theron’s comments were honest, extremely revealing and I hope, helpful to others who may not view adoption as a viable solution, let alone a goal in life.

For other people, the adoption calling may happen later in life.  In People Magazine dated June 4th, television personality Jillian Michaels talks about her recently adopted two-year-old daughter Lukensia from Haiti.  It wasn’t until she was in her mid-30s that Michaels felt this calling.  She said, “I felt the calling to adopt. There is something in you that can’t be denied. You just know in the deepest part of your being that you are meant to find this little soul and guide them through life.” Her story was closer to mine– adoption was not always in her life plan, but turned out to be one of the best things she ever did.

Ms. Michaels explains further, “The adoption process was not a simple or easy one. There were moments where I was starting to think it was not going to work out.”  Michaels said the two-year wait was all worth it.  “That moment of getting Lu out of Haiti and the wheels of the plane touching down in New York … she was an American citizen after two years,” Michaels recalled, tears welling in her eyes. “It was a heavy moment.”  I too, remember those tough moments during my adoption process, as well as the joyous days after my daughter was born and when our plane landed in Seattle.

Over the years, many celebrity adoption stories have been told and I find it stunning how sincere many of these people are when it comes to their children.  These adoption stories may not be as salacious as the romance gossip that often surrounds celebrities, but the emotions they emit are real and sometimes fascinating to people who may have taken the same path, or want to.

Finally, the actress Meg Ryan also struck me with her comments about her daughter Daisy True, adopted from China a few years ago.  “I am convinced, completely convinced, that there was nothing random about [the adoption],” Ryan told Redbook in 2007. “She is the daughter I should have.”  I loved the simplicity of her statement. I have always felt that my adopted daughter was meant for our family.  Ms. Ryan’s comment validated that feeling even more.  My daughter’s disposition and appearance are very similar to my mother’s but even more than that, she has fulfilled the lives of my husband and two sons in a way that reassures me that we chose the right path for us.

It is clear to me now that our adoption was meant to be and it saved me from feeling incomplete and ChildDrenched.  It has been a privilege to be her mother and I am grateful for the luck, fate or divine intervention that brought our family together.  I hope others, celebrity or not, continue their search, keep trying, and remain patient because someday, life may just offer up a wonderful gift.

Today’s Drip: A Tribute to the Love of a Dog

In my blog, I usually write about adopting children and try to provide emotional support to prospective adoptive parents.  Today, I am writing about the other adopted member of our family.  I write for those who have lost a dear, furry family member and the devastating sense of loss it creates, while also leaving us with cherished memories.

Our dog Jasper died, fittingly, just before Memorial Day weekend.  He came into our lives when I was truly ChildDrenched and unable to conceive our third child.  He was a gift to our two young boys a year before we adopted our daughter who is now ten.  His presence filled our home and our hearts and he taught our children lifelong lessons.  As he aged, I watched in admiration as our children cared for him when walking became more difficult, feeding became more complicated, and spending time with him became less entertaining.  I am forever grateful to our dog for suffering through the last few months as we readied ourselves for the end. We are now all in mourning, stunned by the emptiness in our home, despite five people living here.

As a healthy yellow lab, Jasper enjoyed every person who came to the door bearing packages, dry cleaning or mail.  His tail wagged incessantly and despite his 90-pound girth, he was happy to be an inside, lap dog.  He seemed delighted to see us every time we walked in the door, regardless of how long we had been gone.

My husband posted our dearly departed, eleven-year-old dog’s photo on Facebook and received more condolences from friends and business associates than I have ever seen.  Some had met Jasper when my husband used to take him to work.  Jasper would greet all the employees walking from desk to desk and then lay down in the middle of the room, logging hours of restful naps while the software engineers worked.  Others just knew of Jasper through my husband who referred to him as his “third son”.

As a puppy, Jasper was another member of the “team” for our kids.  He often played in the outfield when our sons played baseball many years ago.  We would watch him try to pick up as many balls in his mouth as he could fit, and still run.  He was happy to be “dressed up” on Halloween for pictures and trick-or-treating.  My daughter enjoyed arranging her stuffed animals all around Jasper, who sat patiently listening to her chatting with all of her friends.  He loved the snow and was extremely enthusiastic and protective when our kids went sledding.

Jasper was a loving family member who, until a year ago, was my perfect walking partner and my buddy when the house was empty on school days.  He would sit and listen to me type at my computer, talk on the phone, and watch “Ellen” with me. Far from passive, he had an intuitive sense of how to respond to us when we were happy or comfort us when things went wrong.

Although the last year was full of vet visits, complicated medicine schedules, and physical therapy appointments, there is no relief in his absence.  I would gladly have kept picking up his shedding fur and feeding him pain killers and treats.  But, we knew his health would not improve and it just wasn’t fair.

Now, we miss him when we walk in the door to our “empty” house.  It will be a long, slow recovery, especially for our sons who helped us pick him up from the breeder eleven years ago when he was only six weeks old.  Jasper’s death represents the years that have gone by and as we look at his puppy photos, we also shed a tear for our children’s childhood that went fleeting by.  Optimistically, I now know that having a dog accompany our children as they grew from kids to young adults helped teach them compassion, responsibility and now, about loss.  As difficult as this loss has been, I highly recommend a dog for any loving family.

We all knew this day was coming.  My daughter kept track of Jasper “in dog years” helping her learn her 7s times tables and also understand why he seemed to be getting old so quickly.  I watched other friends’ lose their family dogs and somehow expected less of an impact on our lives.  I was wrong.  Jasper’s departure has devastated our family and as we limp along suddenly dog-less, the prospect of recovery seems remote.  The thought of adopting another dog has been shelved until late in the summer.  The problem is that there is no replacement for this perfect pet.  Jasper’s calm and friendly disposition will never be matched.  We just have to hope that the good memories persist, allowing another dog to slip into our lives someday and help ease the pain.  Rest in peace, Jasper Zamboni.