We’re Back (Sort of)

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In what amounted to the full efforts of a transcontinental move, our family has relocated itself.  Ten minutes down the road.  If you had asked me in January where I saw myself by the time pre-school started, I’d have answered in the same spot.  I couldn’t have imagined how roughly true that was.

It’s been a strange move.  We are officially in a new town, but we go to the same church and grocery store.  The only major difference to our out-of-the-house routine is which Target we go to.  Our new-to-us neighbors are finally realizing we don’t need tips on what’s what in NoVa.

Preschool started up this week for both girls.  They go to the same learning center.  They are in new classrooms with new teachers and loving it.  We see their old friends out on the playground, and we’re quickly making new friends.

One, a mom, was trying to figure us out.  She eventually approached the subject directly when she realized we were parked right next to each other.  She thought maybe Wren was my black husband’s child from a previous relationship because there was no way Wren had white blood in her.

I actually get that a lot from people I haven’t seen in ten years… Surely I’ve remarried as one does.

The thing is Wren does have a white great grandmother.  I shared that with the mom of the girl in Wren’s class.  When we got home, I asked Wren if it bothered her that I talked about her adoption.  She’s still very quiet on that subject.  Maybe I should take a cue from her.

Yes, I realize the irony that I’m blogging about it.

Should you adopt just because you should?

Last Wednesday, as Wren, Chickadee and I were getting ready to go on a walk around the neighborhood, I got a phone call from the adoption agency.  It was important.  It was the kind of call that makes you stop everything you are doing.

Mama Tee had given birth to a baby boy, and she wanted us to adopt him.

“Hold up!” I am hearing you all say. “Didn’t you just see her?  Did you know she was pregnant?”

Yes, we saw her back in February.  She was wearing a coat indoors which was a little strange.  While I briefly entertained the possibility of her being pregnant, the subject did not come up.  I figured she would tell me if she wanted to, and I left it at that.

Did I secretly wish deep down that she was pregnant and that we could raise him?  Yes.

So why did Okey and I respond no?  It’s complicated.

The reason I’ve struggled with writing this post is that I don’t feel it’s my place to share the details surrounding his birth.  I’m not going to reveal much here because I want to respect him and his family.

Like his sister, he was born early.  No one knew when he would be released from the hospital.  With my two little ones, I knew that I could not make the daily trips (80-miles one-way) to see him.  I felt strongly that he needed his mother to hold him daily, and I could not offer him that.

Okey and I also recognized that our girls have needs and fully deserve our attention.  I’m sure we could have made it work, bringing him into our family, but it would have been a lot of work.  We’re already feeling like a fragile ecosystem.

We spent days asking difficult questions.  We felt like philosophers by the end of the long weekend.

Does blood matter that much?  Should we adopt because it is the right thing to do?  How do we fit three car seats in the SUV?  Will Wren resent us?

We talked it over with our parents and some friends in the adoption world, and I’m so thankful for their support and perspectives.

The tug on my heart to hold him was there, but I didn’t feel a motherly love toward him.  When we got the call about Wren, we knew she was our daughter.  The bond with her was instantaneous.  We just didn’t get that same peace with him.  Maybe it’s because we weren’t looking to expand our family, or maybe it just was not meant to be.

Adoption: A placement doesn’t have to be good-bye

Yesterday we had the great joy of reuniting with someone very special to our family.  She’s kind of a big deal.  You see, without Tee, we wouldn’t be the family we are today.

Nearly two years ago we met briefly.  She was entrusting us to raise her daughter.  It was awkward.  It was emotional.  She asked, out of the blue, if she could have a reunion visit.  The social workers said we didn’t have to agree.  They said if we gave an inch, she’d take a mile.  But how could we say no?  “Yes,” we cried.  Tee said that we wouldn’t even have to identify her as our daughter’s biological mother.  That we couldn’t agree to.  Our daughter would know her.

The plan was to meet Continue reading

“Are they both yours?”

“Are they both yours?” The woman asked as she sat down next to me.

The toddler was happily running back and forth between the toys and me as we waited in the doctor’s office. The infant was asleep in her car seat.

There it is, I thought. Hardly an outing goes by without someone having to ask about our family.

“Yes. These two are mine,” I replied with a smile.

“Oh,” she continued, “I asked because she has dark skin. I thought maybe she was adopted.”

“She’s still mine,” I simply offered back with a grin. Wren had noticed someone talking about her and came close to her mama. We exchanged kisses.

“Is her dad black?” The woman continued probing, not getting it.

Yes? No? One of them is? Despite a lot of practice, I still don’t know how to answer these questions.

I said “yes” this time.

I wish I had answered no. The only dad Wren has ever known is not black.

I wondered at what point Wren will understand these strange remarks. I wonder when she’ll start asking me these questions.

A question for my readers: How would you respond in this situation at the doctor’s office?

Please step away from the shopping cart

My family and I were out shopping today and a grandfatherly man said loudly and in our direction, “I see an adoption!”

I knew he was talking about us, the two white people with our black and white daughters.  I was trying my best to ignore him, paying attention to the items in my cart.

He came closer and asked more directly, “Have you adopted?  Where is she from?  Will I see you in church on Sunday?”

My husband, Okey, replied, “Yes, one of our daughters is adopted.”

I replied, “Local.”

We said, “Yes, we go to church.”  (For the record we likely won’t see him on Sunday at our church.)

Sometimes I feel like there’s this arrow which points people to us.  Usually if people say why they are interested in our family, I respond better to their inquiries.  However, it just felt like our family was a novelty to him.  I didn’t feel like putting on a show.

Wren and I are so in tune with each other, I could sense that she was awkward around him.  Was it because of how he spoke or did she pick up on my apprehensions?  I realized that the novelty of our family will never fade and that our sweet daughter will be subjected to this for the rest of her life.  It made me sad that I can’t give her normalcy.

Then he wanted to touch our sweet Wren, and I told him “No.”  I tried to explain that we were recently recovering from colds (it’s true), and I tried to make it obvious that we had a newborn too that I didn’t want to get sick.  Then he tried to shake my hand, and I’ve never felt more like Adrian Monk the fictitious germaphobic detective.  Okey shook hands with the grandfatherly man, and no joke, I went in search of sanitation wipes.

Although I want to wipe away this experience, I know that encounters like this will never end.  The question is, will we ever be prepared for them?

Strange Conversations with Strangers about Adoption

I’m thinking I should start up a series of blog posts called Strange Conversations with Strangers about Adoption, but that’s a bit lengthy of a title for an ongoing series so I’ll be mulling it over until the next blog article begs to be posted.

Our family does not match, and people cannot resist approaching us to figure it out.  I don’t know why people want to know where our daughter is from.  We get asked what country she is from constantly.

The first Sunday after we brought Wren home from the hospital, a gentleman in our church approached us and the conversation went like this:

He said:  Oh, great! The two of you are babysitting.

I said:  No.  This is my daughter!

He said:  Oh, where in Africa is she from?

I said:  No… She’s from here.

[Okey has decided to add an accent to the name of the well-known local city in which she was born since he figures people want an exotic answer.]

A parking garage attendant spotted me carrying Wren, and that conversation went like this:

He said:  Is she from Ethiopia?

I said:  No.  Are you?

[He was.]

Twice this past week, well-meaning acquaintances asked if we would adopt another child from the same country.

I said:  Yes.  I would.

Then there are people who assume we are related by blood but can’t quite figure out the connection.

When Okey and I were visiting his grandmother in West Virginia, his father introduced us to another visitor at the nursing home. The lady was so confused that she sought clarification.

She said:  If the two of you [meaning Okey and me] are brother and sister, then who’s the little girl’s parent?

[I still don’t understand how Okey and me being siblings made more sense.]

Then there was the conversation I got when just Wren and I are out shopping.  The cashier was trying so hard to figure us out.

He said:  She must have her father’s face.

I said:  Uh, I guess.

We stopped by the alley to visit our old bowling league.  A new bowler approached us, and the conversation went like this:

He said:  Oh, so is this your niece?

I said:  No.  This is our daughter.

He said: Oh, how great of you to adopt her from Africa.

I said:  Umm, she’s not from Africa.

And sometimes there are just awkward conversations like when the nursing students in the hospital were encouraging me to breastfeed my daughter.  That conversation went like this:

She said:  Breastfeeding has been shown to have more health benefits for a newborn child.  You should consider it.

I said:  Oh, I don’t think that it’s an option for me.

She said, curiously:  Why not?

I said, straight-faced:  I just don’t think I’ll be able to lactate.

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For truly serious in-depth conversations about adoption, please check out Don’t We Look Alike? DWLA is generally about adoption, primarily international adoption, and often-times transracial adoption.  Every post has been insightful,  and I highly recommend it to everyone in my circles.