Sunday, February 26, 2006

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The World is Too Much With Us

Today I feel like you will never arrive. Maybe you are just about to.

Today adoptive parents are discussing faith, and (challenging) the belief that each child arrives in God's time, and that each heartbreak that leads to that child's arrival is necessary in God's plan. I am, and will remain, undecided on that matter. The reasons you will lose your first family are manmade, and the mistakes that have delayed us are manmade as well. But from those losses, a beautiful thing will be made. Perhaps that is the part that is God's will, and not the first or the second. Perhaps your arriving at the care center and our name reaching the top of the list at the same time is only the happiest of accidents, and more miraculous for that.

I also think incessantly about all the things you might be experiencing, all the painful things that have to happen to you and to your first family before you will be my daughter.


From AlertNet -

NAIROBI, 24 February (IRIN) - The drought situation in southeastern Ethiopia is already "critical" and is expected to deteriorate over the coming months if the rains continue to fail, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said.
Ethiopia, along with Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya, are facing a severe drought with some 11 million people at risk of serious food shortages.

Or check out Unicef's story on the drought. You can find both to the right.

My head swims and my heart hurts.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Girl with the Wait and the World in her Hands

Today I'm feeling the weight of the world.

In a discussion among families adopting from Ethiopia, parents with their children home offered comfort to those whose children will be long in coming. This comfort was offered from a place of compassion, and in some cases from a place of deep faith that their own waits had brought them the children meant to be their own.
Women who have suffered infertility before planning to adopt seemed to suggest that this was well-meant but cold comfort, because theirs was a pain, a longing, that only those with infertility could understand. This broke my heart, and I reacted - badly, maybe. I have to admit that I do not know what it is like to be unable to conceive. Yet . . .

I know what it's like to have your body not do what it is supposed to do - a body is supposed to healthily carry a pregnancy to term. It is not supposed to begin labor at twenty-three weeks. A body should not attack its self. But sometimes it does, and does both of these things.
I know what it is like to be told never to expect a healthy pregnancy.
I know what it is like to lose.
I know what it is like to hope.
I know what it is like to despair.
I know what it is like to hope anew.
I know what it is like to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. And to miss my daughter so much it physically hurts.

There are great things about meeting and sharing experiences with people whose experiences are like our own. I can't make my traumas and losses real for anyone who hasn't come close.
But there's also a danger in that. To believe that my experiences can only be understood by those who have had the same ones poses problems.

If I am the 1 in 8000 with peripartum cardiomyopathy that would compromise a second pregnancy here in the US, my "friend" would be the other one in 16000 . . .
It also poses the problems of over-identification and exclusion. Can a woman adopting after infertility really not identify with a woman adopting from another place? Can she identify entirely with someone adopting after a similar journey or is everyone's journey just different enough?

Aren't we safest assuming that we are all coming to adoption from a place of loss?

That question is the most painful of all for me, because the "all" that I mean is not just comprised of adopting parents. In order for our family to be made, my losses were necessary. And they are minor in comparison to the losses I. will face before she comes home, to the losses her first family will experience or has already experienced. In the time that I wait, I.'s first mother will decide that she can no longer provide for her. Or I.'s mother will die. Or she has died, and I.'s first father, or her grandparents, or aunts, will have to make the same choice.
When we thought we'd adopt domestically, I imagined that choosing to place a child must be like deciding to cut off an appendage in order to preserve it, and once the decision has been made, to realize that it was not an appendage but rather the heart. Had I met with a "potential birthmother," (expectant mother) I imagined myself wanting to scream "Wait! That's your heart! You cannot live without it!" But perhaps I.'s mother knows this, and knows she has to make this choice anyway. This is to say nothing of the fact that the reasons children in Ethiopia are finding (and must find) homes in the United States relate to an impoverishment of Africa by the west, a fact which we cannot escape.
Will my awareness of the pain that brings I. to us disable me as a parent? Certainly not. But does it change the nature of both my pain and my joy? How can it not?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Quick post: quick trip

This weekend Daddy, your brother and I took a very quick trip (24 hours round-trip in two and a half days) to celebrate Aunt E's birthday and to visit your baby cousin. It was a wonderful, exhausting, insane trip, but very worth it to see people we love so much.
I was reminded on this trip of how much every family is a matter of choice. Aunt E is your aunt- in-love, my best friend since I was 4, since she held my hair when I threw up because I was homesick at nursery school. Your cousin is your cousin because he is Daddy's sister's son. But he is ours because we love him and we promise to always love him.
In a restaurant on our way back, we sat across from a family with a beautiful daughter and son. Their dad told us their son turned one three weeks ago, the same week he came home from Guatemala. We congratulated them all doubly - on his birthday, and on his homecoming. How blessed they are to have him!
We are so eager for your homecoming. How blessed we'll be to have you home! (Come home soon).

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.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Out of Order

I (and may you never read this):
A few weeks ago, I learned that you'd be much longer in coming. It seems that in the time it took people we depended on to do what they needed to do, other people got other things done for other families. Suddenly, there is a long list of families waiting for daughters from Ethiopia. Better that there are waiting families than waiting children (which is the case for boys, and I will get to that shortly, perhaps in another post). I'm filled with such joy every time a family announces their referral. Still, a line was forming, and we weren't on it. And our hearts ached, and our arms were empty. We've already been waiting so long to have you home. We started the process in earnest two years ago when we started the two year fund, and we've been loving you intensely all along.

I was walking in a semi-rain - the misty semi-rain that really wants to be snow - and I was lost in my own head. Someone reached out to me, and I took what she offered, without comprehension. After I crossed the street, I looked at it. It was a pro-life tract and in the middle, an image from a late term abortion. I was horrified and saddened that this was still the tactic intended to reach young women facing difficult circumstances and potentially painful decisions, and also accidentally reaching women who've already faced pain. So I crossed the street again, still not clear-thinking as I would have liked, hurt and angry and feeling like a victim. I told her, I'd almost lost my son at 23 weeks, someone dear to us was perhaps losing her child at 25 weeks as we were speaking, and I was waiting for my daughter through adoption and missing her (you!) like no one could ever imagine, and they just don't think and . . . "Bless you," she said, holding my arm. Then, nothing more.
Now how do you argue with that, even if you want to?
I cried - saddness that really wanted to be fury.

I love and miss you.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


I never know where a story begins, or where to begin a story. This story began, I suppose, a long time ago, when Daddy and I were 17, and already talking and thinking of you. Or maybe it began Friday, our dossier finally on its way after much delay. I don't know which beginning I will tell you, or when. Perhaps both - perhaps all of them.
I always say to Daddy that I will begin telling your brother the story of his birth four months before each birthday, on the day I first went into preterm labor. And every day after I will add - "and then today, I was still on bedrest, hoping, praying, loving, and trying not to labor." So far, I haven't said that. Should a child know he was almost lost, if it shows he was infinitely loved? But how you've each come to be in our lives is so much a part of the story of US, a family most ordinary and extraordinary. I love you, as I did your brother, before I even know you. And I love you both immeasurably.