Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Why we're adopting

Since this is the first day of my blog, I might as well make a couple of entries, so that the one lonely post doesn't look so, well, lonely. Here is the story of why we chose to adopt.

While we were living in Maine, Children's Home Society & Family Services sent us a newsletter. We're not really sure why we received this newsletter, so if you're the kind of person who believes in fate, perhaps you will conclude that we were meant to get it. If you're me, you just assume that you probably got these newsletters before, but never noticed them. In this particular newsletter was a story about CHSFS's Ethiopian adoption program. I read the article, and it resonated with me. Paul and I had talked about adoption before, in a pretty hypothetical way, so I was open to the idea but hadn't really thought about it in the here and now. Something about this article, however, spoke to me in a more here and now sort of way. One night, while crawling into bed (in our tiny loft bedroom in a cabin in the woods of Holden, Maine), I mentioned the article to Paul. Turns out, he had read it, too, and had been left with the same feelings I had: maybe this was something we should do. I believe the conversation, in its entirety, went something like this:

"Hey, Paul. Did you read that article in the Children's Home Society newsletter about Ethiopian adoption?"

"Yeah. Did you?"

"Yeah. You suppose maybe we would want to do that?"

"Yeah, I think so. How about you?"

"Yeah, I think so, too."

"OK."

"OK. Good night."

That was kind of it. I mean, we talked about it a lot after that, but I think our decision was made in those few sentences late at night in a log cabin in Maine. For a while, whenever I was asked why I wanted to pursue Ethiopian adoption, I was unable to give a good intellectual reason. It just felt like the right thing to do. Or rather, it felt like something I wanted to do, could do, and was called to do (not necessarily in the religious sense of the word, but I guess that's not terribly important).

Then I did some research, spoke with people, and began analyzing it from a more intellectual perspective. Thus began a very difficult journey. As it turns out, it is one thing to imagine bringing home a motherless infant and meeting all of her needs with love and affection. It's another thing to fully grasp that this child is motherless because of global politics, racism, poverty, and cultural factors completely outside my realm of understanding. And then there is the reality of bringing a black child home to a white family, in a society where white privilege is very much the foundation of our country, and people will have strong opinions about our child, her family, and her background. Finally, this child will carry with her the most basic and primal of losses - that of a mother. And I will never be able to fully heal that wound.

Thinking about all of that nearly caused me to abandon the whole process. It was overwhelming. How could I ever be qualified to raise this child? What if she hates me? What if she believes in her heart of hearts that I did the wrong thing by her? How could I ever forgive myself if she were to conclude in her adulthood that I basically ruined her life?

I cannot say that I have fully resolved all or any of these issues. I have simply learned to tolerate them, to talk about them, and to be aware that they exist. I have spoken to many people about my own issues around race, and have done a surreal amount of self-examination (that some might call neurotic obsession) to understand my motives and expectations for this adoption. I have read books, blogs, and magazines, have watched videos and attended workshops, and have talked with women of color and with adults who were adopted transracially. In short, I think I'm doing my homework, and my hope is that it will benefit my daughter.

Now when I am asked why I am adopting from Ethiopia, I respond that I believe strongly that children need parents. I acknowledge that adoption is not a great answer to the problems families are facing in Ethiopia; that it is, in effect, the lesser of a number of evils. I state that I am committed to doing what I can to help the situation in Ethiopia, but that in the meantime, babies are being brought to care centers and orphanages, and they need parents, period. I can be one of those parents. I have found that my faith in this answer has to be strong, for many people I have encountered feel differently. Transracial adoption stirs up strong emotions in some people, and I have to be prepared for their energy being directed by way. We will see, when the time comes, how I handle negative remarks, anger, racism, and just plan rudeness. In the meantime, I will continue to educate myself and do the work that I believe is necessary to adequately care for an African child.

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