Monday, March 26, 2012

Obviously, We All Feel Differently About Adoption--Another Person's Thoughts on My Thoughts

I was wondering what to write about next, when I was "blessed" with a fairly scathing e-mail today sent to my Etsy account, which is where I have my adoption artwork up for sale (  (I am including the e-mail below for your thoughts (of course I will keep her name confidential)).  I have been contemplating how to respond to her, but I think I have decided to be short and sweet for a few reasons.  First, an heated exchange via e-mail is not what I think is most beneficial.  Second, I feel if the wording had been a little less aggressive--a little less of a personal attack, then I would feel much more comfortable explaining my reasonings behind each of her concerns.  But as written, I have decided that there is no need to justify any of these things to her.  I am very open about our adoption process (and most things in my life) and I rarely, if ever, get offended by any comments that come from a sincere desire to know what I was thinking or why I made a choice, even if you whole-heartedly disagree with me. I understand that everyone's experiences are different, and everyone's feelings are different.  I wish she understood that, too.  Here are her words in italics. 

Hi there, I joined Etsy just so I could write to you. I really like your illustrations and your heartfelt desire to write a book and create illustrations expressing all the complexity of your feelings, but I feel a real urgency to plead with you not to share these with your child (or any adopted child for that matter). The child does not need to feel that "pain" and "grief" are a part of his or her coming into the world. They do not need to know that you "suffered" (presumably with fertility issues, making him or her a "second" choice), He or she does not need to think that you are "saving" him or her or that he or she is "saving" them! Gosh, that whole "saving" thing is a huge burden for a child! Even the term "gave me up" for adoption is a phrase no social worker or any worker in the field of adoption would encourage you to use. ("made an adoption plan" is much more positive). The one that really got to me, and the one I came across on Pinterest and actually gasped out loud was the one about "choices both good and BAD" brought us here! Why would you tell your child that? Your child does not need the burden of "bad" things brought them into the world. They certainly don't need to hear their birthmother disparaged (presumably she's the one who made "bad" choices!). Sheesh, this is all adoption 101. Have you not had your adoption education/home study yet? You need to talk to an adoption specialist about the appropriate language to use, and the ideas that you plant in your child's mind and heart by the way you talk about the way your family was formed. Save your fertility grief to discuss with your partner, a counsellor or other adults in your life. Your child does not need to carry the burden of your grief, nor does she need to think that he or she was a second choice. Your child does not need to know that you "mourned great loss" before he or she came along. This i! s all ut terly inappropriate for a child. Any child. (Incidentally, why do you refer to the child as "he"?) Your feelings are all perfectly legitimate, but they are totally inappropriate, even deeply harmful, for your child. Where is the joy? Where is the happiness? Where is the celebration of your forming a family? THIS is what your child needs to hear. They do not need to carry the burden of your griefs.

Now, I don't agree with everything I read about adoption, but then there are so many types of adoptions--so many combinations of kids and new parents and levels of pain and joy that no one poem or thought is going to encompass them all.  The one thing I will refute here that I felt was an over-riding theme in her words, was the idea that we should not share the negative things about our children's adoption stories with them.  I think kids, age-appropriately, need to know the good, the bad and the ugly.  I believe by the time they are in their late teens (again, appropriate to their age and personal development) that there should be no secrets, and they should know their whole story.  Anyone that has had secrets kept from them or been lied to, knows that dealing with the facts is much easier than dealing with lies or half-truths.  It may be hard at first, but if handled with love and compassion, it allows that child to understand, cope with it, and move forward much more easily than if they ever feel betrayed by us, the parents who are supposed to love them the most.  As always, I welcome any comments, either publicly here on this blog, or through a private message.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DNA is the Least of Which Makes Us a Family.

Our Sweet Son.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a family.  In some ways explaining how babies are made is a little easier than explaining how families are made these days.  The basic principle of how to make a baby is the same.  Somewhere along the line, a sperm and an egg have to meet up and do their thing.  Babymaking 101.  But families....well, that’s a different story.  
DNA is the least of which makes us a family.   It took a long time for me to understand that.  Truth be told, I was worried that I didn’t have the capacity for the kind of love that I thought should accompany motherhood, and I was afraid that if there wasn’t a blood connection, that I might not be capable of developing that level of love for a child.  That's a story for another time.  Of course, I was wrong.  Sometimes you think you should feel great love for someone or something that doesn’t exist yet, and that should precede it.  But, I’ve learned that sometimes (and probably more often than not) being thrown into the fire is what brings on those feelings.  If we waited to feel love, or to feel adequate, before we did something, we would never do anything.

An original poem/print of mine expressing this very thought.
So what makes a family?  It’s a question adoptive families are really forced to conscientiously analyze and draw their own conclusions.  As I was reviewing the definition of “family”, I was interested to see that the word originated from the Latin “famulus”, which means “servant”.  At first I thought that was a little odd, but think about it.  Don’t we love the things most which required the most effort on our part?  Don’t we value a degree for which we worked our tail off more than anything that was just handed to us?  I think we love our kids so much because we put so much into them, because we serve them so often.  By the time a child is born, so many sacrifices have already been made.  They literally feed off their biological mother’s body for nine months before arriving into mortality through a most difficult birthing process that takes so much out of that mother.  And if you adopt, you know that lots of work and sweat and tears and waiting went into the process long before you take that beautiful child home.  It might not have been as physically painful, but trust me when I say it was long and tedious and taxing in its own way.  And as these children grow, we serve them every day in so many ways.  Sometimes we see “service” as a negative.  It did, after all, derive from the word for “slavery”.  But I think service brings us greater joy than we give it credit for.

So, is it servitude that makes a family?  In some ways, I think it is.  But, not in a bad way.  What I really think, though, is that it is the commitment that we willingly pledge to a relationship that creates those bonds.  Covenants make us family.  Ultimately, I say that the ones who treat you like family are your family.  There are many people to which we have blood ties that don’t treat us like family.  And there are many people to which we have no familial DNA connection that love and serve us unconditionally as family should.  They become our family through an adoption of sorts, and we love them as much as we have the capacity to love anyone.  My husband and I are the ones who made the commitment to D in front of God and country, signing the paper saying that we will take him as our own.  We are the ones who carried him home and fed and bathed him and took him to the doctor when he was sick.  We are the ones who cuddled and nurtured him when he was so incredibly small and helpless.  We are the ones who wake up with him in the middle of the night when he’s upset and dry the tears and pat him back to sleep.  We are the ones who taught him how to ride his little bike and fly a kite and how to make pancakes.   We are the ones who teach him words and laugh at the funny things he does and take him to the library and the zoo and the park and to the airport just to sit and watch the planes come and go.  We are the ones who lie awake at night praying for his safety, and praying to know how we can be better parents and guide him down a path that will bring him the most joy.  I am his mother.  John is his father.  He is our son.  We are family.  We serve each other like family.  We treat each other like family, and therefore, we are a family.