Funny Conversations with Friends and Family

20130321-135352.jpg

I had a thought about my life pre-Wren, and rather than saying “While we were waiting for a placement” I said “When I was pregnant with Wren.” I couldn’t believe I had thought that! I guess it shows how much Wren is my child.

Now that I am actually pregnant, I know that this is a time period that cannot be mistaken. Still I am laughing at similar conversations with friends and family.

Okey said rather proudly, “Do you realize you will be the first of our college friends to go through two pregnancies?”

At dinner, a neighbor asked me, “So have you had any different cravings this go round?”

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.

– –

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.

Adoption: Officially Ours

Our agency told us a while ago, but we wanted to wait until we got the official paperwork before we made a public announcement.  Now I can’t seem to type it fast enough.  She’s ours, 100% ours.  And, as Okey points out, we are officially hers!

Maybe it’s like this in other states, but we did not step foot in the courtroom once.  It was a strange feeling to have this part of the adoption process occur behind closed doors, as it were, considering how much paperwork and involvement was required from us in the beginning.  We might have called the lawyer more than once just to make sure we were still on track, and she’d assure us that we were actually ahead of schedule.   The adoption was finalized in roughly three months.  In fact, the decree was entered on Wren’s nine month birthday.  (How cool is that?)

We are just so elated.  This news is one of the best Christmas presents ever.

Adoption: We’re Not Done Yet

I haven’t made an adoption update in a while.  So, briefly, here’s where we are:

We have completed our three state-required post placement visits, and at least six months have passed since we brought Wren home from the hospital.  This means that we can take the next steps to make this adoption official.  Our lawyer started the legal pleadings with the Circuit Court Judge who will review and (hopefully) endorse our case.  (There’s also a few things that need to be done with the Commissioner of Social Services, the health department, and the agency which our lawyer will also handle.)  Once this is done, our lawyer will file the Final Order of Adoption again with the Circuit Court Judge.  At this step, our lawyer informs us that the Judge “merely needs to enter the Final Order of Adoption for it to become effective.”

Our current official status is that we are foster parents who are intending to adopt.  We still need to report to the agency when we plan to leave the state for any length of time and if there is a medical emergency.  Also, her name isn’t really official.  We don’t have her birth certificate yet.  Etc. Hopefully, by year’s end, we will be Wren’s parents in the eyes of the law.

This last part of the adoption process is a very important step that usually gets glossed over in lieu of the initial paperwork, the approval process, the waiting, the referral, the placement, etc.  I guess because it’s not as fun signing paperwork written in legalese and writing more checks.  And, hopefully just hopefully, because it is more of a sure process.

She is My Daughter: Race and Family

One of my aunts told me at the reunion in May that a transracial adoption such as ours was not possible for her family many years ago.  Even though we’ve come along way as a nation in regards to racial equality since then, we still felt a lot of racial tension from strangers, ironically, that weekend.

I have not wanted to turn this blog into one that is adoption themed so I haven’t talked much about that aspect of my life lately.  The reason for that is simply this: I do not want to qualify my relationship to my daughter.  She is my daughter, and I love her – period.

I think that there are enough good blogs out there that curious people can access about transracial adoption.  I just want my blog to be about our life.  The fact is, though, our family is interracial.  We shouldn’t easily dismiss racial tension so I am posting our encounter as an acknowledgment of its existence.

The last morning of the reunion in Texas, a lot of my family met up at a Denny’s.  I needed to make a bottle for Wren.  Rather than flagging down our waitress, I went to the bar to request water.  A woman sitting there asked to hold my daughter. I replied with a smile, “No, I do not know you.”

She asked again.

“No, I do not know you,” I said.

She pointed to her dark skin right above her wrist, “She needs a little brown sugar in her life.”

She was implying that my white husband and I (with our processed sugar complexion) were somehow inferior. I glanced to where my extended family was and told the stranger, “They are only part of my family.”

I wanted to add so much more, but I was uncomfortable.

She clarified her position, “I am a nurse.  It is okay for me to hold your daughter.”

“No, I do not know you.”

“It’s okay. Just sit here next to me.”

Again, “I do not know you.”

She asked if I lived in the area, and I was glad to say “No.”

She asked to see Wren’s face, I reluctantly complied before I returned to the table to make Wren’s bottle.

The encounter was strange.  I did not feel physically threatened, but I was on edge because it was our first encounter like it.  Plus, I didn’t know her.

She kept her eye on and circled around us a few times before she made her next approach with a friend. By this time we had moved to the front of the restaurant, and I was surrounded by my family. The women worked their way through the group and started to question me again.

I remained sitting as I was feeding Wren, but I was vigilant.  I remained calm and gave brief answers.  She wanted to know how old she was, what her name was and also how it was spelled.  She seemed to approve.  At last, she wished us a safe trip.

Those two women at the restaurant weren’t the only ones concerned about our family’s composition.  I overheard one caucasian man say to another, “Does that baby belong to that woman?”

God must have granted me extra patience that day.

Back in April, I commissioned a friend to draw a portrait of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  I finally got around to framing it.  I printed out an excerpt of the famous “I have a dream” speech on some textured cardstock and used that as a matte.  The whole speech is powerful, but it’s the dream part that gets to me.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

My family owes a lot to the civil rights movement and especially to one of its most loved leaders.  We also owe a lot to the families who opened the door for adoptions like ours.  My husband and I are not the first to adopt outside our race, and we certainly won’t be the last.  We have learned a lot from other families’ experiences, and I hope that families down the road can learn from our experiences as our society continues to change.

So what is it that I have learned?

As parents, we need to show how our child to respond to situations appropriately. It would have been easy to get riled up or wish you would have thought of a sassy answer, but that wouldn’t have been right.  It’s best to remain calm and answer questions politely (when appropriate).  We need to remember that our family is uncommon, and our reactions will shape what people think of transracial adoption.  We’re going to stand out; let’s not look like a sore thumb while we’re at it.

Also, that even though Wren and I look nothing alike, people still identify me as her mother and her as my daughter.

Blanketed with Love

Our baby girl, Wren, has been given so many lovely gifts from so many dear people.  Among these gifts are all types of beautifully hand-made blankets.  These blankets are just so … I’m going to cry … I have to share them with you all, and you’ll see what I mean.

Here is the first blanket she received from Sarah last fall:

The quilt is beautifully done.  Sarah has a push pedal sewing machine and then she intricately hand-stitched the stars and crescent moons in each square.  The print has the classic nursery rhyme.  According to southern tradition, the pineapples which trim the blanket are a symbol of welcoming.  So perfect!

Here is a crocheted blanket that my mother made:

This is a twelve-pointed blanket that is made from wool yarn that is machine washable.   I love the bright colors and its unique shape.  (Oh, that is the rocking chair that Okey’s father made.)  So awesome!

Here is another crocheted blanket that an anonymous volunteer made for children who are adopted:

I love the simple and bulky pink and white stripes.  It is over-sized and perfect for many uses.  So darling!

Here is a crocheted blanket that Okey’s paternal grandmother made:

I just love the simple-repeating pattern.  It is the perfect size for swaddling, and it’s soft.  So beautiful!

At night we tuck Wren into her bassinet with this blanket that Okey’s grandmother made for him when he was a newborn.

I love the colors and the texture on this crocheted blanket.  I also love the sentimental value bestowed on it, having had so many generations touching it.  So precious!

Here is a crocheted blanket that our neighbor Judy gave us:

This has similar pattern to the other blanket and is also a perfect size for swaddling.  The proceeds from the sale of this blanket went to the Project Linus which provides blankets for “children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need.”  So caring!

And then there is this quilt that my family made:

Each family member was responsible for decorating a square.  Either they drew something that represented them or had a welcoming message just for Wren.  They pulled this together is a matter of weeks.  This quilt is large enough to go on a twin bed, but for now it will hang on the wall in Wren’s room.  So loving!

It is great knowing that Wren is blanketed with so much love from everyone.  So much love!

Adoption: The Profile Book

When birthparents are ready to create an adoption plan, the agency will offer them the profile of various families that match up.  So how do you capture the essence of who you are in a book containing 14-16 pages?

Okey and I were presented with this challenge early in our adoption process, and my tip to any couple going through the adoption process is to start your book as soon as you can.

Start writing your biography.  Write down everything.  Then edit it.  Keept it short!  You may each have to write a four-to-five page biography for your homestudy, so pull from that as needed.

Collect your photos that are clear and have your faces looking forward.  Include photos that show what you enjoy doing. Caption your photos!   (You know who you are, but a stranger may have difficulty recognizing you in a different hairstyle.)  Make sure to get head shots taken to include on your biography pages.  Don’t put too many photos on a page.  You can have one collage, but choose the photos wisely.
Make an outline.  Your agency should have one that you can use as a guideline.
Print out each your book in black and white.  Tape it together so that it looks like a book.  Then edit it.  Repeat.

As you near the end of the process, show your profile book to everyone.  Get their opinions and suggestions.  They might notice something you didn’t think to include.  (Example:  Our neighbor Judy noticed that we had just one photo of our dog in the profile book.  She thought that we should include a picture of our dog playing with children so that the birthparents would see that she was friendly and sociable.)

As mentioned in January, we’ve been contacted twice by our adoption agency about having our profile book shown due to special circumstances.  Our social worker informs us that our profile book has been showing well to the birthparents who match our criteria.  The only issues that she had seen expressed by the birthparents were that we did not have a straightforward “yes” to incorporating a name and to allowing a reunion visit.  We feel comfortable in our decision to consider these things after meeting the birthmother and are likely to keep things as they are.