Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our Life Less Extraordinary

I've skimmed my own recent posts and realized that, by and large, they are quite normal. Amazingly and wonderfully, our family is starting to feel normal. This might be bad news for blogging, but it's really good news for us. (Though it does make me worry just a touch).

In a post prompted by the impending arrival of her (white) (biological) son and thoughts and feelings this raises regarding a potential adoption that was not to be (shortly before the snapper was conceived),Sster asks whether she had romanticized her prospective role of white mother of a black child. She writes, "I’ll put it bluntly: is this a racist reaction? Have I become romantically enamoured with difference?"

I said I didn't know. Who am I to say? This is really hard.

We first thought we'd adopt from China, only because we knew families who had done it, knew it was possible, and possibility was what we most hoped for. When we first considered domestic adoption, we were asked if we would consider children of african descent. Of course we would, after which we promptly spent days by turns being angry that there would be a difference in "desirability" of black children and all other races and worrying about whether any white parents were remotely qualified to raise black children.

So after our general adoption preparation reading (all eye opening), we threw ourselves headlong into reading and research, psychiatrists' studies of transracial adoptees, sociologists' studies of transracial adoptive moms. (Turns out I had the most in common, according to one sociologist, with white mothers of black children). We asked ourselves in what ways our environment was already supportive of a black child or children, what would have to change, and what we would be willing to do to make those necessary changes. And overall, we felt eager and also very very insecure.

Somewhere along the way we started to form a picture, maybe when ds started talking about his sister "Truckabella" or when the grandmothers mentioned their girl. Maybe sooner. One adoption preparation exercise asks the prospective parent to literalize that "picture," to sketch "her" child (the exercise was intended to help prospective parents realize that they did have these pictures, and that these pictures have consequences). I drew a brown little girl - not a baby - with long eyelashes and curly black hair.

One year later, a black little girl with long eyelashes and delightfully curly brown hair lives here. When we realized that domestic adoption was not for us, was not a good fit for our family, we knew that Ethiopia was where we'd find our little girl. Was this decision, in addition to being imperialist, also racist? No. It was what our process had prepared us for.

But I do know that this way I didn't have to let go of a picture (and every loss of a picture is a very real loss -- I' ve had to give up many in the past) -- she is in some ways what I expected and a million things I never could have guessed.

We knew she would change our life, knew she would make our family different, knew we would change her life immeasurably. We would become a minority family, and she would become the black daughter of a woman described affectionately as the "whitest woman I've ever met" once (which can't be true :) I know some the people she knows). But we would have a choice. She wouldn't. I had no romantic notions of what it would be like to be the white mother of a black child, no sense that it would make me a part of a community I would otherwise be excluded from by definition. But I knew I'd be excluding her from many -- in this case, black children raised by black mothers.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm a pessimist or a pragmatist, or because I'm ever wracked by guilt, but I know my picture of myself as the white mother of a black child wasn't romantic. Yet I also know that once we got that far in the process, I wanted this little girl

(oh how that smacks of determinism, which I avoided responding to, though let me say this -- I find our finding one another all the more miraculous because it was so improbable and contingent, not because it was "meant to be")

and while I know we'll always be different, that she'll always be different because of our choice, I like that our improbable family is starting to feel so normal.


Erin O' said...

Your blogs are certainly not getting boring! I enjoyed this post a lot -- I read Boomerific's post, and partnered with yours, both give me some good fodder on which to contemplate as we wait for our child from Ethiopia.


Michelle said...

I don't find your posts bad news for blogging! I enjoy reading about others' situations and different perspectives!

mia said...

I am fascinated by the process. Not the steps, forms, proceedures and such but the emotional process that brings a family to choose international adoption. It's obvious everyone's process is different and for that I am grateful. Why? Because at the dinner I discuss in my Childhood post one of the women stated very bluntly that the reason so many adopt internationally is because they don't have to deal with the hassles that domestic adoption presents. I asked her what she meant and she said it was the hassle of birthfamily involvement. Many children from overseas have no such baggage. No history following them. (I'm very sorry I didn't set her straight on that.I'm sorry I didn't tell her that just because there is no written history doesn't mean there isn't one.)I was stunned by her honesty. I'm glad the decision making process is more complex for other adopting families such as yours.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

abebech said...

Mia, I am so so sorry (but not surprised) that someone's child's family would be considered a hassle. Certainly no or little documented history (and little or no contact or possibility of contact) does _not_ mean no history! We regret how little we have to give Miss I in this regard, and are doing the best we can to restore some of what was or could be lost . . .