Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Adoption a Good Thing?

I have been delving more and more into the world of adoption blogs. I found Rage Against the Minivan and then I was off...discovering more and more, especially about transracial adoption.

When I first dipped my toe into the waters of adoption, I was mostly exposed by looking at Reece's Rainbow. It's a great site and a needed one - it specializes in highlighting special needs orphans from around the world who need homes, and allowing others to contribute to adoption costs. What a great idea! But I quickly realized that the language used to describe adoption in some of these circles bothered me. "Orphans no more" is one of their taglines. They talk about "children at home with their families." But, after reading several sites from adoptive children, I wondered if they would appreciate this - being told they weren't an orphan anymore when their birth parents are still not in their lives, that they are at 'home' when removed from their home countries. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, a redemptive thing - but I found that the more I was asking question in certain circles, the more people kept claiming adoption was all rainbows and happiness - 'hard but worth it.'*

I'm not sure I agree with that at this point. I think the way we talk about adoption should be more nuanced, more respectful of the very huge life-altering decision that it is for everyone involved. Some things I have come to recognize about adoption include:

1) Adoption always comes from loss. Adoption is never the ideal, and that should be obvious! The ideal would a husband and wife have a child biologically. Statistically, is the best situation for a child. If a child is being placed for adoption, then something went very very wrong. There was death, drug addiction, abuse, neglect. Something broke down and that child's biological parents could not parent that child. That is a tragedy. We are not downplaying the 'realness' or importance of adoptive families by acknowledging that adoption always beings with loss.

2) We must resist the desire to see adopters as 'saviors.' I think my biggest issue with the language used in RR communities is that there is a push for someone to "go and save" the children. Save them from an institution, from an orphanage, from their politically unstable home country. I get that - no one wants these kids to be in a bad situation, and many of them are. But adoption also takes a child from what they know - even if it's not safe - and closes the door on ever reuniting with their biological parents. That is still sad. The fact is, only Jesus Christ saves us and what he saves us from is ourselves. We should seek to be conduits of God's grace, but in no way does that mean white-washing the pain of separation from a home culture or over-inflating our role as parents into saviors.

3) Adoptive children might see everything very differently. As adoptive children grow up, many of them see their experience differently than the wider world. They may be angry that they were separated from their culture or their identity; they may long to find their birth parents or extended family; they may still feel apart from their adoptive family, despite years of love and care. The fact is, most of the adoption narrative that we read are from one perspective - the parents - and neglect to acknowledge that the adoptees experience may be very different.

4) There is an innate desire to know where we come from. I think a lot of people approach the concept of family by saying "love makes a family." They want to call the adoptive parents the 'real' parents and say that DNA does not equal parenthood. I think that comes from a good place; a place of wanting to make what we choose rather than what we're dealt our reality. But children want to know where they come from - they love to know that they were made in love, that they have Daddy's eyes or Mommy's hair, that they look like Grandma, etc. It gives a person context for their life. We can't minimize that, no matter how much we try or how much it seems politically incorrect.

5) Adoption is a paradox. I think the last point brings us to the paradox of adoption - we want these children to grow up in a family, not an institution, with people who permanently belong to them - and yet, even the process of adopting someone can still cause pain and loss. Adoption, from my point of view as a Catholic Christian, is our attempt at healing our brother and sister's pain - at being a father to the fatherless. But just as we are adopted children of God, and still long for our Heavenly home, so too being adopted children will not solve all the pain of initial abandonment.

These are aspects of adoption I don't think I had ever considered until I really began to pray and consider adoption from a very personal standpoint. As I begin to think of adoption not as a monolithic experience, but what it would be for us - for our family, made up of people who are sinners and have unearthed prejudices and selfishness - and for the children we are matched with, children whose stories are as different as they are similar, who present unique challenges, who have bottomless needs just as we all do - I realize it's not so simple. Adoption is as simple as wanting to love more, and yet so much more complex that statement looks insulting. It's not just, I want a child, my biology isn't cooperating, and look, here's one of the type we want. It's not as simple as, there are children who need homes and I can open mine.

I will figure out why God has placed this desire on my heart, but I'm grateful I'm not jumping in blind. I'm grateful that I have doubts, concerns, a need to push more and ask the hard questions. Because as much as I don't want to do anything bad, I want to do more - I want to do good. And I'm still asking, for our family and a given child, is adoption a good thing?

*I am grateful to the Reece's Rainbow community for all the work they do on behalf of children who are not with their birth families and are often neglected in bad conditions. They are a grant foundation that supports adoptive parents; they are not an orphanage or an adoption agency. They have answered so many questions that I have, and have been nothing but wonderful. In writing this, I only question the line that adoption is always a good thing - because I am concerned that this neglects issues like focusing efforts on family reunification, poverty being a reason to abandon children, etc. I know that these issues are beyond the scope of RR - I'm just opening up a wider conversation on adoption as I consider it for our family. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Who, ME?

Well, this blog is still chugging along somehow and one of these days I might do something with it besides having it be the most uninspiring dear-diary ever.

BUT - someone thought it was worth something, and nominated THIS BLOG for a Sheenazing Award in the 'Smartest Blog' category!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

(the exclamation points alone prove that I am not worthy)

But if you happen to agree (get your head checked if so), then I'd be ever-so-tickled if you'd vote for moi. My competition is stiff - really, really stiff. I mean, The Anchoress? Seriously? Isn't she already in a category all her own?? And Little Catholic Bubble is basically an online theology textbook! Not to mention - how can I compete with the blog of the Washington Archdiocese? Can I be a pro-soccer player and cry, not fair!? So you might change your mind when you get there, but nevertheless, I am thrilled to be nominated and this will fuel my deluded dreams that people are reading me and that I should endeavor on in my attempts at artistic genius meaningful communication!

Thanks to all of you for reading, and whoever you are who nominated me - thanks so much! I'm tickled!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How to Grow a Family

Here we are, steadily into the new year, and my life feels all at once more together and much more falling apart. Aspects of our life which felt stable don't anymore, but nothing is destabilized enough to talk about it in public.

Baby sleeping in public

Growing our family is still very much on my heart. It's so much on my heart that sometimes I feel like I'm going to burst. I have a near-frantic need to talk about it. I can remember this feeling when I was pregnant; all I wanted to do was be around other mothers and talk about pregnancy, birth, newborns. I was addicted to birth stories and pregnancy forums!

Newborn Zuzu - still with her belly button clamp!

Now I have just as much of a need to communicate, but finding the community has been harder. Most of my friends have already had their second, third, or fourth children! I want to talk to parents about adding a sibling: is there an ideal timing, how likely is secondary infertility, how do you introduce the concept to your child, how do you prepare?

And adoption...adoption communities are numerous. But I have a terror that my questions are, well, rude. These are people who have grown their families this way and I am nervous that I am being insensitive or uncaring when I ask: do you cosleep with your adopted children if you already cosleep with your biological children? Are you nervous about your adopted child being jealous that you still nurse your bio child? Is it really a horrible idea to adopt out of birth order, or to have your only child's first sibling be an adopted one? Has anyone ever breastfed children they adopted, especially if they're still nursing their biological child? What if I get pregnant while I'm trying to adopt? Is that insane? How crazy exactly am I?

Basically, how much wine will it take me to get through the day? 
Just kidding - I mean gin! 

On top of all of this, my heart has really been drawn to children who are sight impaired - either blind or partially blind. So that brings a whole new set of questions. What are the best books for raising a blind child? In our increasingly technological world, how do I prepare a blind child to be self-sufficient? How do I prepare my home? How do I help younger, pre-verbal children understand that my adopted child can't see? Where do I find the blind community online?

Basically I want to know: What would adoption really look like for my family? I want to give someone all of our factors and thoughts and situations and say: am I crazy? Is this a bad idea? Talk me through this! If I had a spirit animal, I'd be begging big time for some help on this front. (what are spirit animals? and how much time do I have to spend in purgatory for mentioning them on my supposedly Catholic blog?)

I hope if I have spirit animal, it's as cute as my baby, otherwise that's just disappointing.

I want answers. I want something concrete to hold onto and say, ah yes, this is right. But I'm so terrified of all the answers that most days I just want to stay in bed and cuddle my one and only baby - the baby that I know. It's hard because now I've had a whole 15 months of knowing Zuzu - I know who she is. I know what her personality is and what she likes; I know what will calm her, what to say, what she'll eat. And the thought of adding more - however it's done, whoever they are - makes me realize it will all change, and we'll be bringing a stranger into the home. And on some level, it frightens me.

I have more empathy for those parents who choose to only have one child. I want to keep Zuzu this way forever - knowing she'll always have both her parents to devote attention and time to her, that she'll always feel cared for. Oh I know it's wouldn't be a good thing for long! Her risk of being spoiled is very very real! But I still want it on some level - to protect her, to make sure she'll never feel second fiddle to anyone. It's natural isn't it?

I think this is why I was hoping we'd get pregnant when she was very young, so I wouldn't have to look at any of these questions. I was hoping I'd be so overwhelmingly fertile that my thoughts would mostly be, "hmmm I don't think we can handle 4 under 5, so I'd better sleep in the guest room tonight." Abstinence, for our marriage, isn't the cross that lower fertility is for us - the challenge for us is having so much latitude and freedom. Really, it wouldn't very hard to be selfish with my time and my money and my fertility - if it weren't for my heart.

I long for my mother's heart to be expanded. I can't tell you why - why now, when I'm working, and Tom's working himself to death, and I can barely keep it all together as it is. I'm terrible at almost everything, and most days lately are really hard on me. So why now? What part of this stage of my life screams, ah yes add someone else to take of! I don't know. I have no logical answer. But I'm searching, I'm wondering, my heart keeps asking:

 "how do we grow our family?"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ah, New Years

Here it is again - a new year! I am fond of them, reminding me as they do of a brand new journal with perfect white pages, waiting for my thoughts to be scrawled across them.

As I write, my poor husband sleeps (hopefully well) in the guest room, hoping to shield me from illness. The baby is tucked in to (where else?) our bed, having already bested the illness this week. I am the lone survivor, trusting my hearty immune system and fearless attitude to keep me safe. I pray to God it does, as there's no one to care for us if we all go down!

My word for the year is order. After living here for nearly two and a half years, I realize that I have been putting up with systems that don't work - still stuffing things into closets that don't fit, shuffling clutter from one space to another. And for what! Right before Christmas, I had a burst of energy wherein I organized our cabinets and junk drawer - and what peace of mind it gives me!

But in a larger sense, I crave order in terms of the fitness of things: greater things having greater weight, and all that. What good is it to go to bed being up on all the news that doesn't effect me, when I haven't done any of the work entrusted to me? I am infinitely capable of wasting time on truly worthwhile things (an ardent reader's best talent and worst vice, I believe), but I want to stop wasting time as much as possible.

This new year brings many things with it, including the realization that the time is drawing close when we had discussed trying again. Trying for what? A baby, of course, one of the few things I can want but not demand. Now it's here and suddenly I feel so hesitant - me of the perpetual baby fever! It would be fine spacing, for sure, and every bit of my pregnancy and labor went smoothly last time. Yet now I'm here and I find myself wondering, wondering. Going from just two to the big three felt so natural, so easy - one day we were two, the next day waiting on three, the next here she was, and we've been thrilled ever since. But every baby's a gamble - every new little soul asking for love you must give, even when it hurts to give it. Everything went so perfectly the first time, I find myself wondering - how could we ever get so lucky again?

I know it's not the point - perfection, in a family, doesn't mean everyone healthy or normal or well-behaved. It means love, to the greatest measure, given unconditionally. I know that - but I'm still learning it too, y'know? First time mom, etc. etc.

Where does this leave our adoption plans…I'm not sure. We're still praying and discerning. I have more questions than when I started, ironically, more fears and concerns. There's a lot up in the air…I'm hoping to get some answers soon. But I have a feeling this will always be part of our discernment of our vocation, part of our discerning openness to life.

I've so enjoyed reading all of your anticipations for fresh starts. I hope the year pans out even better than we all hope.

A pictureless post brought to you from my picture less work computer!