Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It had to be you . . .

In my last post, I said I would address the gender preference issue next. Our requesting a girl is so tied into everything else that this post will also wander, take detours, answer other questions, and ask more. Still . . .

A long time ago, Daddy and I thought we would adopt from China someday. We knew that in China there were many girls needing parents. But when we were advised to consider very carefully whether to have another pregnancy or not, we weren't yet thirty (the minimum age requirement for China). We had also learned that there was a need for parents open to adopting African American infants here in the US, and of course we were. We were aware of the challenges of transracial parenting in either case, and we live and work in diverse communities. Plus, we hoped eventually to adopt at least twice from the same place and race, so that our children would all have at least one other person who looked a bit like them, shared some of their experiences. If we went to China, we'd practically be guaranteeing two girls. And part of me wanted to leave that open. We decided to give domestic adoption a try.

Then, we had a very difficult fall. Right after our homestudy visits and our approval for a domestic adoption, (the document hadn't been written yet, and I promise, that story is coming too) we heard that a family liked what they'd heard about us and wanted to meet with us. They also wanted to meet another family, on the same day. Daddy and I had reservations about that. We wanted to parent a child who needed us as much as we needed that child in our family, and this situation didn't feel like that. We expressed this concern to our social worker , along with the concern that if such a meeting was to take place, it shouldn't be delayed. That was not to be - our social worker did not want to travel to meet with the first family until she had to travel for another meeting, and we became increasingly uncomfortable. Eventually we found out that the first family had decided just to meet with the other couple and a couple working with a different agency. Nothing about the situation seemed right from the outset; everything seemed to indicate that the first mother neither wanted to nor really needed to make an adoption plan (At one point she wanted to parent the baby for a month before placing). In truth, if we had met, I'm quite sure I would have talked her out of placing (a subject for another post). And in the end, that first family decided to parent their baby boy.

During that time, your brother continued to call you by the first name he'd ever suggested for a sibling: Truckabella, because he "loves trucks and bella means beautiful." We asked him: What if the baby is a boy? No, he was sure the baby would be a girl. But just in case, he offered Geldo for a boy, because it sounded like an alien. Still, Truckabella you were.

After a couple more odd situations, we were beginning to feel that you would not arrive through our adoption agency (and on some days, at all). We called a few other agencies, who indicated that while there is a high need for African American adoptive parents for African American children, they actually anticipated that our wait would be as long for an African American infant as for a caucasian infant. For every healthy domestic infant, there were three potential adoptive families. Looking back on the first situation we were ever in, we had lived those statistics.

I started to research international options again, but nothing felt just right, until I read about Ethiopia. We knew almost immediately that this is where you would be (more on this as time goes by).

As we were completing our application, we were asked whether we were interested in a boy or a girl. We hadn't expected to have a preference, but your brother and your daddy (and your grandma and grammy) were sure you were a girl. So girl it was. At the time, there was no greater wait for a referral for a boy or a girl. 0-2 months, either way. Which would mean that you'd be coming home in the spring. But there were lots of paperwork delays.

Your brother talked about you as his sister all the time. A friend of his had told her mother that he was "getting a baby sister." "Oh? Is A. pregnant?" her mom asked her. "Nope, they haven't made it [the baby] yet."

We hung your initial on the wall above your coathook. And then things changed. More families began applying to adopt, which is really wonderful news. Before, children were waiting. Now parents are waiting. Much better. But the wait is much longer for a daughter.

Part of this reflects a supposed general trend in adoption: Supposedly in the US, parents having a biological child tend to hope for a boy, while adoptive parents tend to hope for a girl. People have suggested lots of reasons for this - including the ideas that it's about carrying on a name and that adoption is primarily driven by women. I have also read that caucasian parents sometimes believe it will be easier to parent a black girl than a black boy (with the exception of concerns for hair. Worth its own post, since I can't even braid my own hair . . .) I find that most frustrating: In a culture that doesn't value, or fears even (and often), black men, are we adoptive families are confirming that black boys are the least desirable of all people? Black men and black women have faced extraordinary challenges, and continue to face them. Some of those challenges are different for men than for women, but I really believe that a parent who is ready to raise a strong black woman is also ready to parent a strong black man.

But then we had to wonder: did our own reasons for asking for a girl make any more sense than any of those possible reasons? We would not have requested a gender if you had been our first child, or if the wait had been much different for boys and girls, or if we had continued on the domestic adoption path. But when it had been put before us, all else appearing equal, somehow we just felt you were a girl. Now that things are not equal, we still feel it, still feel your absence specifically: We don't just want a baby, we want you.

Our agency now states that first time parents must be open to either gender. This would have affected our wait. But this isn't the only reason why I think the change is a good idea. The fact is, boys are great, and anyone who doesn't know so is missing out. Were I to prefer a girl only, what would that mean for your brother, perhaps another brother, someday perhaps your husband my son-in-law, your own sons my grandsons, if any of those are meant to be?
But boy, oh, boy, I: I'm glad you're a girl.


Lola said...

- check it out! This may sound silly but have you looked into hair braiding classes?

abebech said...

I'll need at least as much help as a class. We're getting books, and advice from parents of aa children, and worst case, we'll take her to the beauty shop - plenty in our neighborhood experienced with aa hair.