Monday, December 8, 2008

Adoption: blessing or curse?

I need to get serious here for a moment and get some things off my chest about adoption. Read with caution.

As I grow and learn and mature into becoming an adoptive parent, I am starting to realize the dark side of it all. I thank God for Mateo everyday. I thank Him for adoption and the opportunity for us to grow our family through adoption. But isn't that so sick and twisted? That I pride myself on being "one of those people", who's willing to open my heart and home to adopt a child who can't be with their family. While it's a beautiful and wonderful blessing for me, it is certainly not for my son. Or any child from a domestic, international, or foster care situation either. It's sad. And horrible. And I don't know why we are rejoicing and thanking God for the gift of adoption.

My son lost his birthfamily. He lost his culture, his race, his DNA, his genetic connection to anybody, his history, his lineage, any birth siblings, and more than I can ever know. That's sad. That is not joyous and happy. That is nothing to have a party about or baby shower or whatever. Mateo's adoption means loss. It means sin and imperfection magnified in this world. It means grief and trauma and possibly guilt and shame.

It also means rebirth, hope, another chance, and a new family. But I can't choose that meaning for him. It may be what it means to us, as parents, but it will probably not mean the same to Mateo. People say he is so lucky. The pat answer adoptive parents give is that we are the lucky ones. But Mateo is not lucky. It wouldn't even be "lucky" for him to have stayed with his birthfamily. It would be normal. That's what he's entitled to, isn't it? All the things I mentioned above. The genetic connection, acceptance, and love all children should have. He deserves to be with a family that looks like him. Not one that looks like the same people who oppressed his race for so long. For Mateo to be with his birthfamily would just be natural, the way things should be. But relatively speaking, is it "luckier" for a child to be adopted then hanging around in foster care or in an orphanage possibly dying of hunger and never forming any connections? Of course. But is it really lucky, compared to most families where children aren't abused or neglected or starving, and stay with their birthparents that love and want them?

And what about the parents who are the "lucky" ones to get to adopt a child? What about those who have to make great sacrifices in raising a child with RAD or special needs or medical problems they didn't know about? I can tell you that through the struggles we had with Mateo, I didn't feel very lucky to have adopted him. I don't think people living with RAD feel very lucky to have adopted a hurt, broken, child who has changed their life so drastically. That doesn't mean they don't love their child or feel a deep bond with them. But lucky? I don't know about that.

Obviously, many children can't be with their birthfamilies, because of sin. Because the world is messed up. Because Adam and Eve ate that damn apple from that stupid tree. I don't think it's better for kids who can't be reunited to languish in foster care forever or grow up in an orphanage. Of course I believe in permanency and family and trying to make the best of a sucky situation. But I am torn between being so happy that I can have Mateo because of this sin and imperfection, and being so sad that he has to be with us instead of the birthfamily he deserves. I don't know whether I love adoption or hate it. Whether I want to be a part of it forever or never again. I definitely shouldn't feel happy about adopting children. How could someone be happy about a child being ripped away from a family and culture they will never truly know, whether it's anyone's fault or not?

I certainly can't teach my son how to be a biracial hispanic and african american man in today's world. The best I can do is provide someone else who can teach him. Even still, the people who love him the most look nothing like him. They don't talk like his people or eat like his people or live like his people, for the most part. Yes, obviously we are all human beings, and Americans, and blah blah blah, but come on, everyone would admit there are differences in the way people of different races live. Whether it's speaking Spanish among family, cooking soul food, or specific slang words. When I worked at a camp for inner city foster children, who were mostly african american, I couldn't understand what they were talking about many times. And I'm young and pretty hip! Those nuances are important sub-cultural social clues about a person. Most transracial adoptees would agree they missed out on that. It made it harder to relate to their peers, the ones that looked like them. That's why black people raised with white parents are often accused of "talking white." So they are not truly accepted by either group. And family is supposed to be comfort and acceptance and the one place in this world where you can be yourself. What if you don't know who yourself is? And what if your family doesn't feel like your real home, or you're not entirely comfortable there? Then what do you have? Nothing. You're lost. And that's the worst place to be. Lost.

So, I know that I've drifted in my discussion here. But it's all related, in my head anyway. Sorry if it's hard to follow. Just some thoughts I've been having lately. Especially hearing other parents who are so excited for upcoming adoptions (I am too, so I'm not blaming anyone), I just think we all have something to learn by looking at adoption from another point of view.

This is just me being open and honest about something very complex. I don't mean to blame or judge anyone, only myself and my own feelings. So don't take any of it personally, but feel free to leave a comment, whether you disagree or not.


JonesEthiopia said...

A hard post for me to read because I often have the same thoughts. I guess I can say I am so very thankful for my daughter... At the same time, I can't forget my feeling as we left her birth country. There is a part of me that will always wonder if taking her from Ethiopia was the right choice. I keep in my head that even though adoption is hard, God chose us to be R's parents and try to find comfort and strength in that. Thank you for your post.

Devan said...

Yeah, I hear what you are saying and yeah it winds up with the adoptee feeling lost whether it's a racially different family raising you or not. No matter what the family you grow up in is different than the one you are genetically connected to--as an adoptee. However, that's part of Mateo's story and eventually he'll have to grapple with it and come out the other side as the person he is destined to become. Every person has struggles, and this one is unique to those who are adopted. Don't feel too awful, everyone's got a story with unique struggles and this one is his. He will come through and in the end he'll see how it all fits together. And the struggle is worth it--to be the best version of yourself, to be able to identify with others who hurt in this world, to learn how to be compassionate, to give a unique voice to the world.

Rachel said...

This is the inevitable discussion my husband and I have every single time I bring up adoption. His argument is always that the kid is probably going to have trouble relating to the adoptive family (if it is a mixed race adoption). My argument is that at least it is a safer, and more loving environment. Although the child may have identity issues growing up, it is a hell of a lot better than living a life in an unsafe or unloving home. Just because a family is biological, doesn't mean that they are "family". With the adoptive family they will have to work through identity issues but will most likely become a stronger, more self realized person in the long run and hopefully realize that they have opportunities that they never would have dreamed of. (Plus, Barack Obama was raised by his white grandmother and he is now the most powerful and influential man in the world). I have a feeling that by the time Mateo reaches middle school, most kids won't give interracial families a second thought because it is becoming more and more accepted every day.

janiece said...

It's an imperfect world we live in and certainly an imperfect system to "help" the children. I wish there was a better way. Did I take my children from their culture? Yes. Am I sad about it? I have mixed feelings. Russian culture is ruch and beautiful as is Kaz and Kryg. However, their cultures/society/government didn't have the means to care for them. My daughter most certainly would have been dead by now d/t lack of medical care for her birth issues. For that, I am sad. But she is a thriving healthy active child that, along with her brothers, is the light of my life. Children, of all people, have the right to adequate medical care. By adopting them, my eyes have been opened to the narrowness of my life. It's certainly been enriched. And I have been able to enrich my children's lives in ways that would have never happened in their native countries. While I can't replace their birth families and their native culture, I can help them to grow to be strong, healthy, well-educated individuals and I'll do my damnest to try to and give them as much information about their native culture as I possibly can. I'm also "lucky" because I live in an area where mixed race is a "so what?" and people don't even look twice. I'm also "lucky" to have an awesome cultural rich city and also to have a great job with great health insurance.
Adoption--mixed blessing. You've certainly given me alot to think about on a snow day---no school--youch!

Lori said...

Interesting points...I appreciate you noting that it is because of our sinful world that any of these points even get thought about or brought up.

I can say, and only for myself, that in all honesty, I have NEVER wanted to be part of the 'culture' to which, were circumstances different, I would be...the sperm donor, as I call him, left my mom high and dry...and in doing so, left me that way too. No worries though, because I SO got the better end of the deal when my mom met my DAD six months later and then married him a year later...nothing particular against the culture itself, but more a desire to have nothing to do with an ethnicity simply because that is the blood that runs through my veins...I don't feel slighted, I don't feel cheated. I guess to a degree, there is some curiosity, but it is fleeting, and had been for the last 25 or so years. The culture I am part of is the culture I was designed and destined to be part of. The family I was raised in is the family I was divinely given to. The circumstances that surrounded it...written before the world even existed. I guess my feelings are that if I claim to have faith in God and His plan and purposes all working for the good, then I need to be okay with the events that led up to them--whether they are life or death, birth or not...

I enjoyed your point of view...and your son is absolutely beautiful!

NANCI said...

I found your blog through Lori's blog. I hope that it is okay for me to make a comment here.

I am an adopted child. (domestic) My biological mother was white and my bio-father was black/puerto rican. I was adopted by african american parents with very light skin---so much so that most people think they look hispanic rather than black. My paretnts (those that adopted me) come from a inter-racial heritage---mostly black and white. I have cousins that have very dark skin and others that have white skin.

So, how do I feel about all of this?? I love it. I was raised to look at who someone is and not what their ethnicity is or isn't. Of cours I have respect for cultural differences, but I am more concerned with the human. We truly share in this human experience.

I have had many people ask me what I am mixed with, what am I , if I am half ______, (fill in the blank with just about anything, and when I was younger it bothered me a little bit.

However, my parents taught me how to handle such situations. My father told me that I was a dime among pennies. I was unique, my story was not any better than anyone else's but my story was different and that was okay. I have never departed from that way of thinking.

My biological mother ws just 17 years old when she had me and she was living in Queens, New York. Was my conception a result of sin? Perhaps, but I know I was intended by the Creator.

So, is adoption a blessing or a curse? For me, it is the greatest blessing that I could ever imagine. I am forever grateful for the selfless act my bio-mother made. I see joy in adoption because I was given the greatest gift: LIFE. Would I be happier having stayed with my bio mother and bio family members? I guess I will never know the answer, but I know that I am joyful, content, and grateful.

I have more than I could ever want in my friendships and relationships. My husband and I hope to adopt a baby one day. We have two bio daughters currently, but I have always had a heart for adoption.

I am an adopted child. I am grateful. I do not focus on what was, but what is. I am of course curious---what dies she look like? What were the circumstances around my conception? What was I like in the womb? Does she think of me on my birthday? Where is she now? What personality traits do we share? Do I have half brothers and sisters? However, these questions do not identify who I am.

Did I lose something by being adopted? Perhaps the answers to the above questions, but look at all that I have gained. My cup runneth over.

Your son is adorable. Your reflections show that you care about how adoption may effect him later on, but I feel certain that just knowing that he was loved, supported, undertsood, and so very wanted will outweigh anything he may feel as a "loss" due to being adopted.

I hope that my words as a child of adoption will bring some comfort to you. The love I have for my parents is boundless. My understanding for people from all backgrounds is a direct result of my life experience.

There are really only a few things I wish that I could relay to my birth mother----I am healthy, happy, and so very very grateful. I just wish I could say Thank You. Her decision was ultimately my gain. I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you.

J-momma said...

Wow, this blog post has certainly stirred up some conversation. That's just what I wanted it to do, so thank you. I have learned so much just by reading all of your responses and your blogs. I feel it's important to keep "talking" about these topics in order to gain a better understanding of how to parent these very special kids. I know I always learn so much by hearing others experiences. So thank you everyone, for participating in my blog discussion!