Saturday, October 22, 2011

difficult rights

i think we've been fortunate to adopt in the 21st century. the amount of information available to adoptive parents (or anyone interested in adoption) covers a wide range of subjects - everything from the logistics of the adoption process to literature discussing open adoption to bonding w/your adopted baby. technology helps, too. the access to all of this information is convenient and readily available, day or night. and there are online support groups....and while they don't offer the same degree of connection that an actual, 'we all meet in the same room and drink coffee' group would, they do help lessen the sense of isolation somewhat.

and yet....even in a world w/unprecedented information available...and in a time when candor is appreciated....there are some things that are just flat-out hard to talk about. hard to face. hard to wrestle with.

in adoption, and in most other aspects of life as best i can tell, we have a tendency to gloss over the more difficult places. if somethin's confusing, frustrating, sorrowful, or maddening, we're not sure what to do about it, what to do with it. we sure don't know what to say to someone who's in the middle of one of those places. so we tell others and ourselves - it'll work out. it'll be worth it. God has a plan.

and all those things are true. so very, very true. but 2 years ago, someone tellin me "it'll work out" didn't do me a hill of beans of good. this time last year, i was hangin on by a thread as we were tossed about on the seas of the birthmother's turmoil. i'd be so mad some days i couldn't see straight. all i could say was "i know this will be worth it in a few months, but that doesn't help me today." and yes, God's Goodness surpasses our understanding....but that doesn't answer all of my questions.

more specific to adoption, there are certain things that are uncomfortable to talk about. the money, for instance. the final cost of bringin home a baby through adoption, and the twists and turns just down the financial road were almost too much. or things like.....well, things like i've written about before - gettin to know the birthmother, the awkwardness and un-natural-ness of that relationship, and the inexpressible compassion we have for her...and how that compassion isn't always steady. or things like race and gender and special needs. these issues are so personal, so potentially controversial, so uncomfortable.... but in adoption, they have to be addressed. they can't be glossed over. you can't pretend they're not there. you can't hope they'll just work themselves out.

and i'm beginnin to wonder, too, if other questions don't need to be addressed as frankly, as straight-forwardly, as gently and courageously. such as....

(deep breath.....and bear w/me....these are things i haven't written or really talked about before, so the words may be rambly)

the idea of rights.

in this country, individual rights are a big damn deal. as they should be, maybe. i don't know - i'm not a philosopher or politician. but as americans, we are raised to believe we have rights - the right to vote, the right to be treated w/respect, the right to education, etc. i think this concept is deeply ingrained in us....even in terms of relationships and family. we have the right to have as many children as we want - unlike parts of the eastern world. women have the right to choose whether or not they want to give birth to their unborn baby. but what if you can't have children?

when i was in nursing school, i was fascinated by the every aspect of a human being is intricately connected (mind, body, emotions, relationships, etc). one of the most fascinating facets was/is the life-giving power we have...from conception to birth to raising our children. the way we're designed to reproduce and nurture life, especially for women, is utterly amazing. down to the smallest detail - like a newborn can't see more than about 12" at first, and this is generally the distance from a woman's breast to her face, so that the first thing that newborn sees and focuses on and begins to recognize is his mother's face, even as he's receiving physical nourishment... or how unborn children can hear what's goin on in the outside world so that they recognize their parents' voices at birth...and how unborn children can feel the sway of their mother's gait and often times, after birth, go to sleep in their mother's arms when she's walkin b/c that's the rhythm their used to. i mean seriously! it's unbelievable!!!!!

but again...what if you can't carry a child? what about all of those built-in mechanisms to bond w/your mother and father....the ones who have cared for you the first 9 months of your tiny life? what happens to all of that if a baby and mother are matched after birth?

what about the birthmother's built-in, innate, natural "rights" to her child? just b/c a judge bangs a gavel and a piece of paper says "adoption finalization" doesn't dissolve the connection b/w a woman and the baby she conceived and gave birth to.

all of that to get here - one of the questions that lingers around the corners of my heart is this - do i have a right to riley? legally, there's no question. that was taken care of march 11. but i'm not talkin about legality. i'm talkin down deep....she's not our flesh and blood. her genetic makeup belongs to someone else. she's forever ours, i know that.....but is she thoroughly ours? can she be? how does that work? if we're made of genes and flesh and blood, and we're made to reproduce and pass those things on to the next generation, what happens when your family no longer shares them?

we're so proud when we look back at pictures and notice family resemblance - especially physically. sons who look like their fathers or uncles or great grandfathers. daughters who look like their grandmothers, cousins, and sisters. where did you get your eyes? your hair? your weird pinkie toe? and what about your quirks - like on forest gump when he meets his son for the first time after 6 or so years, and they sit down together in front of the tv and both cock their heads to the side. didn't that scene just melt your heart? does your heart not swell w/pride and a sense of deep belonging when someone says, "gosh, you look like your daddy." these connections run more deeply in us than we know, i think. we put a lot more stock in them than we realize. and adoption splinters that bedrock.

even when you're white, and you adopt a white baby. even though her hair color could pass as combination of yours and your husband's. she did not come from our bodies. she will not look like any of our pictures from when we were little. maybe a little, but not really. not year after year after year. and i can't help but wonder at times - do i feel differently b/c of that?

someone might be readin this and thinkin - what awful things to think about. you shouldn't dwell on negative thoughts. you have her. be grateful and move on.

maybe that approach works for some people. but it doesn't work for me. riley will be 10 months old in 4 days, and the lingering questions haven't disappeared. i'm not particularly proud of my uncertainty....but ignorin it or hopin time will take care of it hasn't worked. at all. so the only thing i know to do is drag it out into the light and see if it's as big and scary as it feels sometimes.

b/c i love her. deeply, adoringly, i love her. and i want my love for her to be good, true, high, and long. i want my love for her to be refined and redeemed if needed. i want to be a good, honest, devoted mother....not one who hides from hard things or hard questions. and b/c i want to be able to have an honest conversation w/her when/if she talks about not lookin like anyone in our families' photo albums.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


i've been in a funk lately. in the last few weeks, we've moved into a new house, huntin season has started (which means josh is gone a lot more), and school started back up. i've been a little overwhelmed. i've never been a fan of movin and am notorious for never completely unpackin all the boxes. i'm also a procrastinator, so put all of that together, and you get a "i'd rather ignore everything and watch tv" funk. plrbgh.

as i've reflected on how i got here, into this funk, i've realized writin is often such a breath of fresh air for can help me find a way out. writin helps me reflect. helps me become more aware of what's goin on inside and out. helps me see the light at the end of lots of proverbial tunnels. it's just flat-out good for me.

bein a parent of a 9-month old easily opens avenues for words and descriptions and stories....avenues that most other parents can relate to, sympathize with, or laugh at. and i enjoy this time of life, immensely. i love that riley gets cereal boogers from stickin her finger, knuckle deep, up her nose while eatin, smilin and gigglin all the while. in the midst of gettin frustrated w/her squirmy little body during a diaper change, i can't help but laugh when her bare-bottomed little body escapes and crawls like crazy across the floor. she's somehow learned to flash a smile when a camera is held up and delights in chewin on whatever she can find. she's quite vocal and regularly competes with the pastor for the congregation's attention on sunday mornins. we're just truckin right along....and she's growin like crazy (in the 90% for wt now!)...all three of us are havin a ball.

and i'm not only a parent of a 9-month old....i'm an adoptive parent of a precious baby girl to whom i did not give birth. some days, this is just a simple fact. others, it's a hard pill to swallow. i don't think i can say that it's a realization that ever brings warm and fuzzy feelings. and to say that i don't ever think about it, or that it's a non-issue now that riley is here would...well, a lie.

it's this part of my life... no, wait.... it's more like a new color that sometimes shades and sometimes adds new beauty.... it's this color that i think i need to explore w/some degree of intentionality. it's the kinda color that can shade and shadow things as easily as it can invite and illuminate other things.... and i think exploring it more deliberately will bring healing to me....and hopefully one day, a grace-filled refuge for riley to explore for herself.

i'm thinkin this blog will serve as my means of wordy reader, beware :)

i hope to write a bit more consistently and a bit more candidly regarding the life of an adoptive parent....and i hope to do so w/o apology. in a few days' time, i guess we'll see how determined i really am...