March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: Giving Thanks to Readers

In honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to thank all my blog readers – the supportive and the critical, the subscribers and occasional site visitors, adoptees and adopters, singles and newlyweds, parents with young kids and empty-nesters, strangers and friends – for reading my posts for the last eight months.  Your comments have inspired me, confused me, enlightened me, supported me, and given me a different perspective.  But mostly, you all have indulged me by reading my thoughts on adoption through my journey.  My goal was to help others by shedding some light on the multitude of issues surrounding adoption, but I have to admit that the cathartic benefits of writing are tremendous.

While I write mostly about my life as a mother of an adopted daughter, I am just as thankful for my two biological boys, who are also the light of my life. My boys were seven and nine when my daughter joined our family, 48 hours after her birth. Since then the family dynamic has been incredibly different and totally enjoyable. In the last ten years, both boys have learned more about compassion and sharing, and we all learned to be more patient. My daughter was a gift that we are all thankful for.  She constantly expresses her gratitude to all of us in various ways — not just at Thanksgiving.

I started this “ChildDrenched” blog to begin a conversation about adoption. I have enjoyed the comments from blog readers who have shared their experiences as adoptive parents, as well as their perspectives on the issues I present. Over the last few months, I have found that many of the people who read it are not only interested in, but emotionally moved by the issues I have brought up. More people than I expected have expressed gratitude to me for exposing my personal journey and opinions. Since the issues are so personal, people suffering from infertility don’t often chime in with comments but hopefully, they are finding my blog helpful.

The most surprising comments on my blog are those made by people who haven’t ever had infertility issues and never considered adoption.  They comment on their new-found appreciation for the suffering that others may be going through, which is fascinating to me.  Before I experienced infertility issues myself, I never appreciated what was happening “behind closed doors”.  I thought everyone went through pregnancy and childbirth like I had with my first two children.  My experiences with infertility really opened my eyes to the pain millions of women and their partners are facing month after month.  Writing this blog, and hearing positive feedback, has given me the incentive and courage to publish my memoir.

I hope to continue my blog, but for the next few months most of my time will be spent publishing my book.  March into My Heart, written over the last five years, details our journey to become adoptive parents ten years ago. It is a personal account of the reasons we decided to adopt and the hurdles and joys along the way. Originally written for my daughter so she would know, in detail, what we went through to find her, the book also communicates the possibility of adoption to those contemplating adoption for whatever reason.

As I wrote the story, I found myself back “in the moment” several times.  I remembered the doubts I had about adoption, the questions about our future, and the anxiety about the birth mother who chose us to raise her child.  I described our very personal feelings in detail, which I hoped would give my daughter insight into how much we wanted her in our lives.  This is where the term “ChildDrenched” was born. I was truly drowning in my passionate need for a child.

When the story was complete, I began considering whether others (not just my friends) would appreciate reading the story. I knew the kind of infertility problems I experienced over ten years ago had statistically grown amongst couples in the US and wondered if my story would help people who may be considering adoption as a solution.  Over the past few years, my husband and I have told our story to friends. A few have adopted children with our guidance, which has been incredibly rewarding.  It also felt like we were “giving back” to a community who welcomed our daughter and to people suffering with infertility.

Publishing this adoption story is risky and exciting, all at the same time.  A few close friends have read my memoir and their comments have been constructive, positive and supportive. It’s an extremely personal story which anyone would feel anxious about publicizing.  However, when I start to lose my nerve, I feel disappointed and selfish. I don’t expect my story to be a “best-seller”. I will be satisfied if it helps even the smallest number of couples find their dreams of a family through adoption.

I will be publishing posts less often as I prepare my book for publication.  I hope that my blog readers will chime in with questions, comment on this post or any previous post (www.childdrenched.com), and suggest ideas for future posts. Most importantly, if you would ever read a memoir by an unknown author, I hope you will consider buying my book.  I hope that my story will resonate with people facing these personal issues, help them see that adoption makes having a family possible, and help inform more people why adoption is important to others in their community.

Today’s Drip: Real Parents for a Real Family

Marie Dolfi, an adoption counselor in Albany, NY, recently posted a list of suggested responses to insensitive comments and questions about adoption titled “Smart Responses to Stupid Adoption Comments”.  The comments and responses were listed separately for adults and for children.  I found it incredibly sad that we have to arm our children with ways to combat misplaced comments or questions about the validity of their families and how they are connected to each other.  I have touched on tolerance many times in my blog and found it fitting to address it again after my home state of Washington just approved the marriage equality referendum last week on Election Day.

My close friends, who championed this valiant and successful fight for marriage equality because of their own family values, felt strongly that it made sense for the rest of the state (and country).  Apparently, most of the state of Washington, as well as two other states that passed their marriage equality referendums, agreed. We all need to develop tolerance and respect for the differences among us and treat each other as we want to be treated. Families aren’t all the same in our country; two parents of the same sex are just as capable of living happy lives and raising healthy, successful children. The stories and statements supporting the referendum that came across my television screen during the political season were inspiring and admirable for any partnership. The people who have strong relationships with partners of the same sex just want what everyone deserves: happiness, freedom, and respect from their community.

I have no intent to incite a political battle when proponents from either side of this issue read my blog, but I do have a strong opinion about how we communicate with each other.  Respect is vitally important. When I was young, my parents were extremely strict about respecting other kids’ parents, teachers and other adults in positions of authority. They also expected my brother and I to show respect for our own parents, our friends, and each other.  As an adult, I have often wondered why every family doesn’t teach this important lesson to their children. As an adoptive mother, I have become especially aware of naïve or insensitive questions or comments about my daughter.

As I read through Marie’s list, I am grateful that my daughter is resilient and easy-going. She isn’t likely to react strongly to questions from insensitive kids that might inflame another, more anxious, adopted child. The list included questions like: “Where are your real parents?” (Suggested response: “I live with my real parents. That’s why I call them Mom and Dad.”) and “Why did your birth mom give you away? Didn’t she want you?” (Suggested responses: “She didn’t give me away, she gave me parents.” and “Actually I was always wanted. My parents wanted me before I was born.”). Keeping a positive attitude and taking an honest approach to any comment about family background is always helpful advice to children, as well as adults.

I would have a problem with many of the comments and questions on the list that thoughtless adults might ask me like: “How much did your child cost?” (Suggested response: “Children don’t cost anything. Adoption costs are for services only.”) and “Aren’t you worried that the birth parents will want their child back?” (Suggested response: “No, we’re her parents by law. It is a myth that birthparents frequently come back to reclaim their child.”). Some of the questions could be called outrageous or laughable, but the list illustrates my point quite precisely. We all need to think before we speak and be respectful of others.

Gay parents suffer some of the same scrutiny and insensitivity that adoptive parents endure, which is equally disappointing and extremely unfair. I searched the Internet for suggested responses to insensitive comments directed at families with two parents of the same sex but found nothing, except for the infamous comment in 2004 made by former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney who said to a group of gay parents, “I didn’t know you had families” (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/i-didnt-know-you-had-families-mitt-romney-told-group-of-gay-parents/politics/2012/09/11/48832).

As a parent, I hope that all children, regardless of where they live and who their parents are, can live free from callous remarks and inconsiderate questions. I also hope that when those children become adults, they teach their own children how to respect others’ choices and treat everyone as fellow Americans with equal rights and equal access to happiness.

Today’s Drip: Does It Matter?

After a play date at our home recently, one of my daughter’s neighborhood friends complained to her mother, “Why didn’t you tell me that she was adopted?”  I found it curious that she was so upset with her mother that she hadn’t pointed out that piece of background information before she spent time with my daughter that day and on several previous occasions.  I had to ask myself, “Does it matter?” which got me thinking about whether or not my daughter’s other friends treat her differently because she was adopted. I had always thought not.

Apparently, it was an important factor for this young girl who found out my daughter was adopted in casual conversation with her. What about other children? My daughter has never felt different from her friends in any way.  I doubt most of them know she was adopted. It doesn’t seem to matter to them, or her. She is happy and well-adjusted to her family and community, which she has been a part of since birth. I never got a good answer from my daughter’s neighborhood friend explaining why it mattered to her so much. The good news is that they like each other a lot and the revelation about adoption hasn’t affected their friendship at all.

Another one my daughter’s friends, a boy, was not adopted but his parents used IVF (in-vitro fertilization) to get pregnant. Recently, his mother asked me when I thought she needed to tell him about the IVF procedure that led to his birth.  I asked her “Does it matter?”  In this case, there were no other people involved in his genetics, aside from his parents, but his mother clearly thought he needed to know why he was different from other children. But he’s not different in any way to himself or to his friends. Why would it help a child to know how he was conceived?

I’m sure the science of fertility will advance over the next few decades and procedures like IVF will become even more commonplace than today. Statistics indicate that infertility rates will continue to grow, and so will the number of adopted and scientifically-assisted children. A child needs to know about being adopted, in case of health-related issues among other reasons, but is it important to disclose IVF-related information to our children as well? My friend will eventually tell her son. Will that information affect him in any way and will his friends feel differently about him if they know?

Often, international adoptions indicate a child’s origin before anyone even asks the parents a question.  Friends realize the child is adopted at a glance or when they speak to the child. But again, does it matter? Those families (including one family that is part of my extended in-laws) display an abundance of loving, tolerant, and happy parenting; the same as all the biological families I know. Friends of those families are unaffected by knowing about a child’s country of origin.  Parents of adopted children, both domestic and international, love those children as much as if they were their biological children and care for them the same way. I make every effort to treat all my children, two biological and one adopted, exactly the same and the “difference” between them has never mattered to anyone in our family or amongst our friends.

I give credit to my now ten-year-old daughter for the good friends she has made and her positive approach to being adopted. She claims that none of her friends, other than the neighborhood girlfriend, ever talk about or wonder about her adoption. When I first told her about being adopted at the age of five, she just shrugged her shoulders and moved on to the next topic of conversation (her bedtime story). I wasn’t even sure she understood what I had told her, until a week later when she informed one of her babysitters of the news. Clearly, to her it was just a part of who she was, like having green eyes.

There are differences between all of us that either existed at birth or have developed over the years from education, illness, or accident. The effort parents make to educate their children about tolerance and embracing the differences among us is critical to a future of well-adjusted, peaceful communities throughout the world.