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Archive for the ‘adoption’ Category

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How We Became An Asian American Family

Last September my husband a I embarked on a journey that would open my heart and mind in ways I didn’t expect. When we started our adoption journey we set our sights on Central or Eastern Europe. We both had a natural affinity for that part of the world. I was looking into Russian adoptions, and called a few agencies that had good reviews and helpful websites.

During my research I found that Russia was not a member of The Hague Treaty ( a set of laws that is supposed to protect families and children, and make sure international adoptions are carried out ethically). We didn’t feel comfortable going with a non-Hage country so we set our sights on Bulgaria. That country is part of the Hage, and freely accepts people with disabilities as applicants. During this time of information gathering I never gave China a thought. I knew they didn’t generally accept applicants with disabilities, and frankly I knew close to nothing about the culture. In fact, I remember telling my close girl friends that we were not interested in perusing a Chinese adoption.

I am a proactive person. Once I decide I am going to do something I take action to make it happen. I started browsing hundreds of pictures of waiting children. I registered to have access to between four and six different lists of waiting children. We were looking for children with visual impairments ( wouldn’t want any drivers in the family, wink wink). I saw several that on paper would be a good match for our family, but none jumped out at me. Until… this thumbnail size picture of this little boy with a water gun. He had thick glasses and a mischievous smile. My heart was instantly drawn to him. All of my biological kids are very outgoing and energetic. A shy reserved child probably wouldn’t mix well with the other three. Lol We reviewed his medical history and decided to ask China for special pre approval to adopt him.

We decided in August 2012 to adopt, and found our son in September 2012. ( We hope to bring him home in August 2013) We’ve been working ever since to bring him home. During the last year I have been researching how to parent an older interracially adopted child, and something unexpeded happened. Of course providing opportunities for your child to participate in and learn about their birth culture is important. I figured that he could take an art or language class here or there. I saw it more as something to check off a to do list than a life style.

I began to read about China, and the social pressures and laws that lead to high rates of abandonment, and my heart for these people changed. I began to see them not as horrible monsters who leave their babies on the side of a road to real people faced with heart wrenching choices. Who relinquish their children out of love, and hope for a better life. I began to appreciate the culture that gave us our fourth child, and now actually look forward to participating in Chinese holidays, and cultural events. After all we are now inexplicably tied to the Chinese culture through our son. It will forever be a part of our family history and culture. We may not be so in the traditional since of the word, but we are an Asian American family.

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STUCK, Coming To A Theatre Near You!

Almost daily someone asks me about our adoption. The most frequently asked question is “When will you go get him?”. Their jaw almost always drops when I have to say “Not for another six to eight months..” Yes, our home study showing we are fit parents is complete. Yes we have completed our required 12 hours of training, and have read several books to prepare ourselves. Yes, we have gathered all the necessary legal documents. Yes we have completed a finger print back ground check. Yes, we have prepared our home for the addition for another child. We have been declared fit parents, and that we are a safe and loving home for this little boy. So….what’s the hold up? BUREAUCRACY!!!

I shouldn’t complain too loudly. Our adoption should take about 12-15 months. That is much shorter than the average time of three plus years. There is a disconnect between the many families available for adoption here in the USA, and the children waiting for them in orphanages around the world. This has been one of those situations where you just shake your head in sorrowful disbelief, but you don’t really know what you can do to change it. Wellll……..a new nonprofit has popped up to address this issue. The mission of Both Sides Burning is to raise awareness about adoption as a viable option, and to facilitate a change in the current system of international adoption. In an effort to raise awareness of the problems engulfing international adoption they have developed a full length documentary titled “Stuck”.

The film will be available in select theaters across the country! It is comming to my city, and I could not be more thrilled! In fact, I have even volunteered to help get the word out to faith based organizations. You can find the dates and city listings here just scroll to the bottom to find the calendar. All proceeds from the movie go back into the campaign. If you cannot attend a showing here are some other ways you can make a difference.

First, sign the petition to congress.
Second, share this blog post on your Facebook page. Or, add a link to their website to your Facebook or twitter account.
Third, if you do live in a city where Stuck is showing you can be part of their volunteer core. They have jobs for people from involved to very simple. I am sure there is something for everyone.
Last, you can become a “Member” of the organization for a donation of $35 or more. Members get special access to the progress of the organization as well as a wrist band identifying you as a supporter of children and families.

It only takes a minute to sign the petition and hit the share button. I hope that if you agree that all children should be given the basic right to be nurtured and loved by a family that you will take a few minutes to help create a positive change in the international adoption machine.

Hey You’re Chinese! Wanna Be Friends?

I never pictured myself as an interracial parent. I was very surprised when God opened our hearts to a Chinese boy. It is not that I have any problem with Chinese culture or people, I just didn’t know anything about it. Once we committed ourselves to this little boy I started reading everything I could about Chinese culture, and interracial adoption. Honestly, I could not be any whiter, and I have absolutely no idea what it means to be Chinese in America.

I have always known it would be important for our son to maintain his cultural heritage, but I am learning that race issues are far more complicated than simply attending Chinese school. One of the issues I worry about is him not being accepted by members of the Chinese culture because he isn’t “Chinese enough”. Add to this a cultural negative attitude about adoptees and people with disabilities, and it might be very difficult for him to really connect with people from his homeland. I realize he may or may not feel a need to participate in the Chinese community, and only time will tell. However, I want him to be able too if he finds it important to a fulfilled life.

One thing I keep hearing over and over again is the importance of parents having close friends from the child’s culture. I can appreciate that it is good for the child to see that you value people who are like them, and that such a friendship could be a large source of cultural information. However, I cannot help having this ridiculous image in my head of white parents, minority children in toe, running up behind other minority adults with the sole intent of feeding their child’s culture bank. It seems to me that seeking out and cultivating relationships entirely on the basis of race or ethnicity is just as demeaning as rejecting a relationship on the same basis.

Don’t get me wrong, we will join our local Families of Children from China, participate in important Chinese cultural events, and encourage our child to maintain his language. I am sure through the course of time friendships will naturally develop as a result of spending time in the Chinese community. I cannot wait to see all the great new experiences and people that will be added to our family.

Should Adopting Parents Consider Themselves “Expecting”?

I read a blog post by Dawn Davenport over at Creating A Family talking about perspective adoptive parents referring to themselves as expecting, and how this is sometimes seen negatively from the perspective of birth moms. The blog post referred to comments made by a birth mother’s blog called Monica’s Musings. I understood the birth mother to say that adoptive mothers calling themselves “expectant” was presumptuous, and puts undue focus on the adoptive parent. She goes on to say this is a problem because we should only be focused on the child, and adoptive parents are making a huge assumption that the birth mother won’t exercise her right change her mind after birth.

Now, I usually stay out of these types of debates. I am not a birth mother, nor have I ever faced infertility. I have been blessed with three biological children, and am now being blessed with the opportunity to become a mother through adoption. For some reason this particular issue didn’t sit we’ll with me. After much thought I think I know why.

First, it is true that adoption outcomes are tenuous by nature, but so is any pregnancy. All pathways to parenting are uncertain. Just ask one of the thousands of heartbroken mothers who have endured delivering a still born baby, or who’s baby died shortly after birth. With each of my three pregnancies I held my breath every time a doctor looked for a heart beat because I knew there was no guaranty of a happy outcome. I am similarly acutely await that there are a number of factors that could tear our hopes of adopting from China in two.

Second, for many parents pregnancy is an exciting time filled with joy and anticipation. Women chatter excitedly about nursery themes, baby names, and showers. Moms, and other family members, begin preparing their hearts and homes for the new arrival. Having had the experience three times, and now “expecting” our fourth child through adoption I can say the two are not that dissimilar. I have proudly showed my future son’s picture to everyone who’ll listen just like I did with my sonogram pictures. I have traded reading baby books for reading about adopting older kids, and blended families. I am preparing his room, and making arraignments for my other children while we are in China. I am no less excited, hopeful, overwhelmed, nervous, or prayerful growing our family through adoption as i was with the births of our biological children. By referring to themselves as “expecting” I think adoptive moms are just trying to share in the feelings of joy and excitement while preparing to become parents. This is especially true if a woman has faced infertility. Not allowing an adoptive mom to say she is ” expecting” diminishes her experience, and implies that adoption is a lesser means of becoming a parent. This seems somewhat disingenuous, and slightly mean spirited.

I get that adoption is fraught with loss, and difficult choices on the part of BOTH parties involved. I think that maybe instead of worrying about the vernacular used by someone else to describe their experience we should focus on resolving the individual issues we face.

The Other Woman

One of the reasons I chose international adoption was because I didn’t want the type of open adoption that is so common in the United States. I didn’t want the extra stress of having the biological mother in my life. I particularly didn’t want another woman that is likely not to share my values having an influence over my child. I was under the mistaken impression that going halfway around the world would keep this other woman out of my life. The truth is that although we’ll never meet she is a part of my life. Like it or not, I am sure she will have an influence over my son to be.

Several days ago was my son to be’s legal fifth birthday. I say legal birthday, because the truth is no one really knows the true date of his birth. He was abandoned outside of a hospital as an infant. It is illegal to relinquish children in China so there was no note left with information that could possibly lead the police back to his biological family. As my heart was aching for this child I suddenly thought about his biological mother. After all she knew his exact birthdate. Where is she now? Does she think of him each year on his birthday? Does she wonder how he’s doing or if he received the eye surgery she couldn’t / wouldn’t provide?

Suddenly and unexpectedly I started to have a heart for this other woman. As a biological mother myself I wanted so much to reach out to her. I wanted her to know that he did receive a sight saving surgery. That he is relatively healthy and happy. I wanted her to know that he would be joining our family in America. That he has the chance to grow up in a close loving family with lots of siblings. That his tummy would never be truly hungry again, or that he would never be too cold to sleep. I wanted to look her in the eye and tell her how much I love the child she carried, and what good care I will give him. Of course there is no way for me or the orphanage staff to contact her. All I can do is pray that she has found peace with the decision she made to abandon her son.

i have to admit when I first began my adoption journey I saw most birth parents as selfish cruel people who just threw away their children. I didn’t see them as individuals facing tough decisions. I thought of them more like a group of faceless people who were just taking the easy way out. I now realize that this assessment is overly simplistic, and unduly harsh. These mothers are faced with very difficult pressures like extreme poverty, lack of healthcare, one child laws, and pressures from older generations of family members to get rid of the ” unlucky one”. Conditions in an orphanage aren’t great, but it does mean at least some healthcare, food, and education for these children. My son to be can see now because of the cataract surgery he received on both eyes. Leaving him on that hospital road was an act of hope, and love not selfishness or disgust.

I feel a cosmic connection to the woman who carried my son, and gave him life. How much more must he be thinking of her? I am sure in the years to come there will be lots of tearful conversations regarding this other woman. It breaks my heart that I won’t be able to answer his questions about his biological family. Still, I am starting to realize that no matter how far around the world I go My life will forever be linked to this other woman. After all we will both be loving mothers to the same little boy soon I hope.

A Simple Book Of Stamps

After my mom’s death I found a book of stamps in her wallet. The receipt was next to it showing she had purchased these stamps just a couple of weeks before the cancer diagnosis. As I placed one on yet another envelope I wondered what she was thinking when she bought them. Was she excited about visiting for Keegan’s first birthday? Maybe she was irritated that the line was too long, or overwhelmed with the number of errands she had to accomplish that day? The point being that I am sure she wasn’t thinking that in a few short months her daughter would use them to mail her death certificates. The day she bought those stamps was like any other of the thousands of days before it. In fact she had 55 years 10 months, and 4 days to live her life. Once it was over it was over. No take backs or second chances.

My parent’s deaths has made me acutely aware that my life will end one day. Days have a way of trickling into weeks, winding through creeks of months, and emptying into a sea of years. Someday God will call me home. I am no Biblical scholar, but when I leave this world, and stand before God He is not going to ask me how large of an inheritance I left for my children or how updated my kitchen was. I even have a feeling that we won’t spend that much time talking about my sins or shortcomings as a human. After all he sent his Son to be a sacrifice for my sin, and make me clean once more. Instead I think He’ll ask me what I did to serve others, and make a difference in the world. He’ll probably talk with me about the missed opportunities I had to serve others, or the excuses I made when I felt His calling me to do something. Excuses like ” I’ll do it later when….I have more money….more time….my children are older…I retire.”

I now realize that ” someday” will be my day, and my time on earth will be up. No matter how much money I had, how smart I was, or how much stuff I accumulated my life will forever after be measured by the memories of others. I better start figuring out what impact I want to make on this world. I am only one person, but God can accomplish much through one person. God is preparing each of us for a journey. For me, adoption has always been in my heart. It wasn’t until after twelve years of marriage, three biological children, and the death of my parents that I became financially, and emotionally stable enough to pursue an international adoption.

Before my parent’s death I would have been much too fearful of the unknowns to adopt; especially a child pushing six years old. I would not want to disrupt my life meeting the possible emotional needs of an adopted teen. I would have felt like it would put too large a financial burden on my other three children. I didn’t realize this at the time, but my highest priority was making as comfortable and easy a life for myself as possible. I was pursuing the great American dream, and serving others along the way as long as it didn’t require any real sacrifice on my part. Once my parents died I realized people and relationships are sooooooo much more important than “stuff”. We had talked about a third child , but decided against it. Not because we felt complete with two kids, but out of fear that it would mess up the nice little life we had going. Now I know there is nothing more that you can give your children than each other. We took a leap of faith, and was blessed with Ainsley.

Now we are taking another leap of faith to adopt Kai. I know that the journey to morph Kai from a Chinese orphan into a Chinese American with parents and siblings will be a huge challenge. But, now I know that God has made me strong! I also know there is a greater purpose here than our family gaining a fourth child, and Kai gaining a stable family environment. Through this little boy God has given me a heart for the Chinese people, and a sympathy for those who abandon their children that I never expected. I have no idea how, but I am sure at the very least we will continue to donate to the orphanage that raised our son the first 5.5 years. I already feel completely blessed and overwhelmed that God is asking me to participate in this amazing life journey of this little boy!

In the Bible God commands us specifically to care for orphans, and he has put that burden on our hearts. To be sure my husband and I are not super human altruistic beings. I am sure there will be those “What were we thinking?” moments. However, with much sacrifice comes much personal growth and blessings. This may be only one child, but like I said you’d be amazed at what God can do with a relatively simple act of kindness and love.

On The Other Side of the World

Somewhere on the other side of the world there is a four year old boy. He lives in an orphanage in China. It is about four or five in the morning, and he is probably still asleep on a mat in a room full of young boys. What separates him from the countless other orphans in the world is we are in the process to adopt him. We are two months into a year long journey to make him our son. We have never met him, but he has already found a place in our hearts. We think of him and pray for him daily. There are many people hard at work to bring hin home to us.

One of the many things I find amazing about this process is he has no idea we even exist. He’ll get up today, eat breakfast, and generally go about his day never knowing how hard we are working to give him a better life, or how much we love him. Even when we bring him home he won’t fully understand why his life has to change so completely or how this change will give him a far better chance at life. To him it will seem that we are simply pulling him away from EVERYTHING he has ever known. It will take years for him to realize that even though he had to endure the loss of his former life that the blessings of being part of a forever family, and being an American will far outweigh any hardships he’s endured.

Yesterday I was thinking about all this, and Jeremiah 29:11 just popped into my head. It says ” For I know the plans I have for you, declaires The Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Just like this little boy’s transition from China to America is a difficult but necessary part of a bigger plan so are the dark times in our lives. I clung to this Bible verse when I lost my parents. I have no idea why God decided to take my parent’s home so soon. I miss them daily, and am heartbroken that my children have lost them as grandparents. However, I know that God has a plan. Just as this little boy has no idea what plans we are making or how they will prosper him I have no idea the plans or knowledge of the Lord. I just have to have to trust that those plans are to give me hope and a future even during the times that are difficult.