Saturday, August 29, 2015

Considering Adopting Siblings?

Sibling adoption is a topic that is close to my heart since two of our children are biological siblings whom we adopted through foster care.

If you are considering adopting siblings from the foster care system or through international adoption or if you are just looking for some statistics, AdoptUSKids has put together the following fact sheet about "Myths and Realities of Sibling Adoption":

Click to enlarge images or view the PDF here 

Anyone interested in learning more on the topic might also refer to this post which focuses on the importance of keeping sibling groups together and this two-minute clip courtesy of AdoptUSKids about sibling adoption:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Adrianne's Story from BraveLove

Here's a video from BraveLove about how one young woman, Adrianne, thought her life was over when she found out she was pregnant.  In fact, she had taken out a loan to get an abortion before she considered adoption as an option.

I thought Adrianne's comments about how her African American culture has historically viewed adoption were insightful.  My hope is that those in her situation will find strength as Adrianne continues to share her story.

As I watched this video one particular quality I appreciated about Adrianne is her ability to offer hope to others while at the same time being realistic about the loss that comes with adoption.  As she says "When you place a child for adoption that is a loss . . . I wish that a lot more African American young ladies would take this step.  It looks bleak right now and I know it's gonna hurt and I know it's gonna be hard but you're gonna be fine."

"To be a birthmother it takes a lot of heart and it takes a lot of strength.  It is one of the greatest things a parent could ever do is to place their child into the hands of someone else to honor and love and care for them.  It's about our children and once we get there we'll be all right." -Adrianne

That's pure unselfishness and bravery right there!

Adrianne's Story from BraveLove on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Sting of Hearing Certain Phrases for an Adoptive Mom

I'm going to allow myself to be a bit vulnerable today and share some feelings of loss.  Adoption can be wonderful but it can't be ignored that it is LOSS which makes it possible in the first place.   

All members of the adoption triad experience some form of loss to some degree: Birthparents lose a child- even in cases where they willingly relinquish their parental rights and are at peace with their decision and have full confidence in the family they've chosen for their child.  

Adoptive parents, and mothers in particular, may feel the loss of not having been able to conceive (and carry or give birth to) their children.

If a child is adopted at an older age their parents may feel the loss of not having been able to raise them during their formative years and missing out on all of the first's in a child's life- first tooth, first words, first day of school, etc.

Perhaps the most profound sense of loss is felt by the child who is adopted as they lose their biological family.  If their adoption is closed they could feel an amplified loss of identity, belonging, or even information on seemingly simple knowledge many of us take for granted, such as "What color of hair or eyes did my bio parents have?"  "What were they like?" to more complex issues such as "What about my medical history- am I at a greater risk for certain cancers or mental illness or alcoholism and other addictions because of my genetics?"

I can't speak for birthparents or those who have been adopted for the obvious reason that I've never been in their situation but I can acknowledge their losses and try to sympathize.  As an adoptive parent, however, I can speak for myself and empathize with other parents who have had to grieve through losses similar to what I've experienced.

With that background let me also share some additional information about myself and my feelings about adoption:  I've always felt drawn towards adoption- I can't really explain why- but it's just been a feeling or sense I've carried with me.  In the back of my mind I thought "I would like to adopt someday" whether I was able to have biological children or not.  As time went on, this sense of adoption became much more keen and clear and transformed from "I would like to adopt someday" to "I will adopt someday."

I always envisioned becoming a parent for the first time in my 20's rather then my 30's but it turns out that I'm infertile and anyone who has dealt with infertility can attest to the fact that it can really take your life's plans for a detour.  

In my opinion, the only thing worse than being infertile is being diagnosed with "unexplained infertility".  I like there to be a reason for things- my favorite question to answer is "why?"- so when my husband and I dealt with unexplained infertility for over the first half decade of our marriage it was extremely frustrating to say the least.  It's so much easier to know how to move forward when you know what exactly it is you are dealing with in the first place.

After about five years of actively trying to conceive we had some answers to where- (and in this case, with whom) the problem lied.  I was FINALLY correctly diagnosed and treated for our fertility problems- which, in my case, happens to be related to endometriosis.  It was a huge relief to finally have an explanation to why we couldn't get pregnant.  And although at that point in time the chance of me having a viable pregnancy was still a possibility for us, we had started looking into adoption as a means of building our family as well because as with going through the adoption process, fertility treatments offer no guarantee that you'll end up with a child.  

To me, adopting our children versus conceiving and giving birth to them was no big deal.  I wanted to be a parent and the technicality of how that would happen wasn't nearly as important as making sure we did all in our power to make sure that it did happen.  My husband, on the other hand, was hesitant about adoption and it took him a while to warm up to the idea.  This totally makes me laugh now because as I continue to see the interaction between my husband and our firstborn child in particular, who joined our family through adoption as a newborn, I don't think it would be possible for any father to love his child more.

With that lengthy background I'd like to share a couple of fairly recent examples of times I've experienced some feelings of loss triggered quite simply by someone's choice of words.

EXAMPLE #1: ". . . maybe you could have had your own children."

I will be needing another surgery in the near future to deal with some of the complications associated with my endometriosis.  As I was talking to a loved one about this and we were calculating how many surgeries I've had over the years as a means of treatment my loved one made the comment to me, "It sure is too bad that you weren't diagnosed sooner.  Then maybe you could have had your own children."

I was taken aback and tried to keep the conversation running smoothly but at the same time I was caught off guard and just kept thinking, "Wait a minute- did she seriously just say that?"  Now if you are reading this and don't quite understand why a comment like that would hurt so much let me try to explain it:

The term "your own children" is basically the opposite of "someone else's children" and "someone else's children" implies that these children aren't really yours- that you are an impostor.  Or that you haven't fully earned the title of parent because your children don't carry your DNA.  Ouch- That hurts.  (As much as that comment hurt I'm relieved that at least it was just said in front of me and not in my children's presence.)

Fortunately, I know the heart very well of this loved one who made the comment and I know for a fact that she would never deliberately say anything hurtful toward me or my children.  In fact, as I was analyzing what she said (I would have much preferred to just let it slide but the words "your own children" kept echoing through my mind over the next couple of hours after our conversation to the point that I couldn't just ignore them) I'm fairly certain that her remark stemmed from her frustration for and sympathy towards me in watching me have to suffer for so long both physically and emotionally with the process of becoming a parent.

From that conversation I was reminded that when someone says something which can seem insensitive or hurtful many times that is not their intent at all but they are simply unaware that such a phrase or way of putting things could be considered hurtful.  That is why education and awareness is so important.

EXAMPLE #2: "Maybe he misses his real mom" 

Shortly after we adopted Jack he was having a particularly hard day and started whining and throwing a tantrum.  We happened to have relatives over and I felt the need to apologize for his behavior- whether it was the result of him being tired or frustrated or simply of being a 2-year-old.  "I don't know what's wrong- he's having a rough time." I sheepishly explained.  My relative quickly offered up his assessment and said, "Maybe he misses his real mom."  

Once again, I was just so startled at that comment that I didn't even have time to formulate a good response.  I would have been totally fine if the words "other mom" or "biological mom" were used- but they weren't.  Maybe Jack did, in fact, miss his birthmother, and I can totally accept that fact. What I was having a problem with is that the phrase "real mom" made me feel like my role as mother to Jack was somehow being diminished.

I understand that adoption presents a unique situation for children because they literally have more than one mom or dad- I get that it's different than the norm of one mom and one dad who conceive their children themselves.  But I think it's important to remember that ALL the parents in the adoptive child's life are real.  Birth parents are real.  Adoptive parents are real.  Both are a necessary part of the adoption equation.  When one party is labeled "real" it automatically makes the other party "not real" by default.

The two examples of  phrases I shared really pricked a tender spot in my heart.  And since I have a tendency to over-analyze things and this is, in fact, my blog, I'll explain why that is:

I think there is a continuum, for me, of certain phrases people use when talking about adoption which range anywhere from "not a problem" "that bugs me" "that REALLY bugs me" to "Did you SERIOUSLY just say that?!"  Phrases like "real mom" or "your own children" definitely belong on the far end of the continuum under the classification of "Did you SERIOUSLY just say that?!" because they're not just bothersome but they can actually hurt.

I think there is another continuum to measure how bothersome or hurtful certain phrases are which is based not on the phrase itself, but of whom is speaking.  For example, it I were to hear a stranger say, "I know a woman who gave up a child for adoption." I would assume that they don't have very much experience with adoption and l would let it slide because if they did have more experience with adoption they would most certainly use the term "placed" rather than "gave up".   Hearing a stranger make a remark like that would be bothersome.  However, if a friend of mine were to use the term "gave up for adoption" I would be even more bothered because they're my friend and because of that, I would hope they would show a bit more sensitivity and reverence for adoption.  Therefore, their response would belong somewhere along the continuum of "that REALLY bugs me".  With the two examples I shared of hearing the phrase "real mom" and "your own children" it hurt not only because it was on the far end of the continuum based solely on the phrase being said/terms used but it was also on the far end of the spectrum of the "whom is speaking" scale since it was my loved ones who made the remarks.

And now, for my final example- the end all/be all remark which, in my opinion, is the F-bomb of all adoption phrases: "You're not my REAL mom!"  or "You're not my REAL dad!" These phrases are at the far end of both continuums I've mentioned because not only is it an incredibly hurtful and personal, accusatory phrase but it can only be uttered by a child to their adoptive parent- the ultimate sting.

EXAMPLE #3- "You're not my REAL mom!".  

This example is deserving of a post all of its own. Stay Tuned.