Tag Archives: adoption

19 Years Ago. And Counting.

19 years ago today a mother-to-be was anxious and nervous and functioning on about 2 hours sleep.

19 years ago today they stopped for dinner at Applebee’s because they didn’t care where they ate and they weren’t really hungry. They poked at their food. They couldn’t concentrate. They just wanted to go already.

19 years ago today they missed the exit and would have been panicked that they would be late but they were already 2 hours early. No worries. Two anxious, about to be first time parents had planned for a wrong turn.

19 years ago today they were not at a hospital. They were at the airport. Because their baby had flown over 24 hours from Seoul, Korea to be a part of their family.

19 years ago today they met an amazing woman, a birthmother who wanted to be part of their homecoming so she could experience the joy she had brought to another family.

19 years ago today people coming off the plane smiled and congratulated the new parents who looked past their heads, trying to get a glimpse of their baby girl. And the passengers waited to see the baby meet her parents for the first time.

19 years ago today two new parents, some of the passengers and one baby cried (for different reasons) and then the passengers clapped, congratulating this new family.

19 years ago today the most precious little bundle of joy was placed in my arms.

And I will never let her go.

Ever.

Happy Gotcha Day, Sweetie! You will always be my sweet, adorable angel!

16 Comments

Filed under Adoption, children, Motherhood

Stupid Things People Say To Families Formed Through International Adoption #38

We were in the grocery store. My daughter was a toddler. A elderly woman approached us.

“Is your husband Chinese?”

“No,” I said.

“Then you adopted her?”

“Yes,” I smiled.

“Ewww. I could never do that.”

I hugged my daughter tightly and said, “And we are so glad you didn’t!”

15 Comments

Filed under children, People

Item #174 From The List Of What NOT To Say To An Adopted Child

I know you meant well. I know you were, in your feeble way, trying to make my child feel comfortable.

But you didn’t. You made him feel singled out and confused.

When assigning a Family Tree project and addressing your group of children, just talk to the whole group. Use words like “family” and “parent” and “grandparents” as if everyone in the group has a family and a parent and a grandparent.

Because we do!

We all do. Families form in different ways, to be sure. But you don’t need to single anyone out. Each child will find a way to complete the assignment that fits for him.

And if my son had brown hair and blue eyes like his father you wouldn’t have even considered saying…

Item #174 – “That’s ok, #1son. Just use the information from the parents you live with now.”  And when you saw the confused look on his face (because he understood the assignment until you tried to “clarify”) you go on to say, “Not your real parents but the parents you live with NOW.”

Real parents? Are you kidding me?

We are his real parents. We may not have physically given him his 46 chromosomes but we have given him food, shelter and love from the moment we first held him in our arms.

We were there for his first tooth. We rushed him to the hospital when his fever spiked to 106. We laughed with his infectious laugh. He held our fingers, one in each hand, before falling asleep those precious first few nights. We held him when he cried, when he was sick, when he wanted simple cuddle time.

We took him to pre-school and proudly watched him at his kindergarten graduation with adorable cap and gown. We jumped up and down when he rounded third base to score the winning run. We read with him every night. We worry about every sniffle. We stand on the porch watching him walk two houses down to a friend’s house, hiding behind the pillar, hoping he doesn’t see.

We know to give him his medicine during pollen season. We anticipate his frequent bloody noses when the weather is dry or the pollen is high. We know that he is allergic to certain antibiotics. We have his pediatrician on speed-dial.

We are his real parents. We are as real as it gets. His biological parents made a heartfelt, incredibly difficult decision to allow us to be his real parents. And we will be forever grateful.

Our son has a family. A real family. To call his own. He knows who his parents are. Who his siblings are. Who his grandparents are. Even his great-grandparents. So, no need to explain things to him.

He knows who his real family is.

No need to clarify.

Just wanted to let you know.

27 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes, family, Soapbox

For My Sweet Adia – Wherever You Are

About a week ago, I began listening to the songs on my iPod in alphabetical order. I came across a song I hadn’t listened to in a long time.

Adia by Sarah McLachlan.

It was released about 5 years after we gave up our foster daughters. The first time I heard it on the radio I had to pull over into a parking lot. I was sobbing and couldn’t drive. It was about my “Adia” – that sweet, innocent and damaged 6-year-old girl who lived in my home for almost a year.

She still lives in my heart. And this song is for her.

“Adia I do believe I failed you
Adia I know I’ve let you down
don’t you know I tried so hard
to love you in my way” – We tried. We really, really tried. And you and your sister seemed so happy with us. But court date after court date after court date – the judge would not sever your biological mother’s rights. Even though she was still turning tricks. Even though she was still using. Even though she bounced from apartment to apartment. He kept giving her another chance. And while he was giving your mother chances you were being held in limbo. Wanting to attach to us, wanting to know that you were safely where you belonged.

“Adia I’m empty since you left me
trying to find a way to carry on
I search myself and everyone
to see where we went wrong” – We held on as long as we could. Yet, I still feel guilty. I still feel as if I should have done more to keep you safe. At the last court date, when the judge gave your mom another 3 months (again) to get her act together I burst into his chambers. I shouted, “We’re offering to pay for their college education and you’re telling me I’m going to be paying for their prison term. ‘Cause that’s were these girls are headed if we don’t find them a safe, healthy, permanent home!” He told me if I didn’t leave I’d be held in contempt. I sulked out of the room, defeated.

“there’s no one left to finger
there’s no one here to blame
there’s no one left to talk to, honey
and there ain’t no one to buy our innocence” – But he didn’t live with us. He didn’t see the night terrors. He wasn’t missing steak knives and scissors. He didn’t find the food you hoarded and hid in your pillow case or your backpack. He wasn’t there to clean the feces off the bathroom wall after every supervised visit with your mother. And he wasn’t there when all of that behavior died down about a week after that mandatory, monthly visit. He couldn’t hear the laughter and silliness return. Those three glorious weeks when you and your sister almost magically turned into two lovable, normal, happy little girls again.

“Adia I thought that we could make it
I know I can’t change the way you feel
I leave you with your misery
a friend who won’t betray
pull you from your tower
take away your pain
show you all the beauty you possess” – I want you to know – sweet, amazing girl – that at the time we accepted you in our home I thought it was the perfect decision. I thought that we could make it. And then, when we had to let you go, I thought that was the right decision, too. I’m crying, now, as I write this – even though you left almost 17 years ago. I still think about you. I still wonder how you are. I still pray that you feel more joy than pain. And I hope you know how beautiful, how lovely, how amazing you are.

“’cause we are born innocent
believe me Adia
we are still innocent
it’s easy, we all FALTER,
but does it matter” – And I still get angry that such an innocent, amazing, sweet  little you was abused by your mother’s boyfriends, discarded by your mother and tossed about the court system. Property. Because of biology. When what you really needed was love and caring. And there are plenty of people out there willing to give it.

But humans aren’t perfect.

Our system isn’t perfect.

And you. Innocent you – who didn’t ask to be born in the first place – had to suffer for it.

26 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes, children, Music

What NOT To Say To Adoptive Parents

“Now that you’re adopting, you’re sure to get pregnant!”

“Oh, it happens all the time. Once you take the pressure off, you’ll get pregnant!”

I have been through adoption twice. Biological birth, once. Happens all the time? Yes, it happened to us – one time. But the first time? No.

Our world was turned upside down and our adoption threatened when we found out that I was 10 weeks pregnant. #1son was already assigned to us and we were waiting for him to come home.

Please, don’t say “Oh, that happens all the time!” It doesn’t.

It didn’t after #1daughter was adopted. And I know of only one instance where pregnancy happened during adoption – out of all the families I’ve come into contact with through the course of our journey.

While we were waiting for a decision from the agency if we could still adopt our son because of my pregnancy, those comments were of little comfort. We were already in love with our son from Korea. He was already born to us, as far as we were concerned. We had pictures. We had named him. To lose him now would be devastating. The pregnancy was no consolation prize.

I can’t tell you how many times someone said to me, “Oh, now that you’re adopting you’ll get pregnant!” I waited 11 long years for that to finally happen. So, I suppose they were right. Eventually. But I had given up all hope of pregnancy. Those comments, as well-meaning as they are, can be little stabs to your heart if you aren’t physically pregnant and you desperately want to be.  It takes away from the joy that you are pregnant in your heart with your adoptive child on the way.

In our case, in our second case, I was actually pregnant, with an adoptive son on the way. All of the well-meaning, but mildly thoughtless comments, took away from the joy of our #1son and HIS place in our family – as if he were second best. As if he were the consolation prize.

I am so grateful that I was able to experience the joy of giving birth. Of being physically pregnant as well as mentally pregnant. If it weren’t for my age, I’d go back on the fertility roller coaster all over again.

But forming a family through adoption is no consolation prize. It is an amazing, wonderful and perfectly viable way of creating family. The planning, wishing, hoping and heartache that accompanies the adoption journey makes it that much more beautiful.

Be excited for the once infertile mom if you ever hear of this happening. Be delighted for her that she gets to experience the joy of adoption and the joy of pregnancy.

Most of all, be thrilled that she is creating this amazing family.

Out of biology.

Out of need.

Out of love.

20 Comments

Filed under children, Motherhood, parenting, Soapbox

My Water Broke With The Call

We had been waiting for three months. Pregnant since we first applied over a year ago. Then patiently waiting for the elusive due date.

That is the limbo you flounder in when you choose to adopt. The pregnancy lasts about as long as an elephant’s (which is 22 months for those with inquiring minds). And then, you go into labor with “The Call.”

You hold onto a picture. Your only glimpse of your daughter. You treasure it. You talk to it. You put it in a frame by your bedside table. You pray to it. You cry, holding it. It is all you have.

Until The Call. Then you go into labor.

I was working as an administrator and part-time teacher at a small, private college prep school. I was in my office and my secretary said I had a call from the adoption agency. Thinking something had gone wrong I quickly picked up the phone.

My water broke.

She was arriving two days later, on Friday, April 30th at 10:45pm.

I stuttered. I stammered. I had no idea what to say. I stood there in shock. I thanked our social worker and hung up the phone. I walked out of my office, dazed.

“How soon do we have to take her to the vet?” I asked our school nurse.

My babies, before human children, were my dogs and my cat. My world was reeling. My vocabulary (and doctors it seemed) had to change.

I called the social worker back. I could hear her grin over the phone.

“I thought I’d be hearing back from you,” she said.

This time I asked all the proper questions: Flight #? Airline? Airport? How soon we’d have to take her to the pediatrician. (I’m a quick learner.)

My boss heard all of the commotion and told me to go home. Get ready. Time the contractions.

When you’re in labor it’s hard to sleep. The anticipation. The discomfort. We had nothing ready. She wasn’t due for another month. Our baby was premature. We had no crib. No stroller. No car seat.

The next 48 hours were a whirlwind. Racing to Sears and K-Mart. Grabbing whatever supplies we could find. I found out later that the hostesses of my shower (scheduled in two weeks) were thrown for a loop. They made many returns and exchanges. We were buying all the things they were going to present to us at the shower.

Seventeen years ago today and I remember it like yesterday. I’m sorry. I can’t avoid using a cliché. It’s true. Who knew seventeen years later I’d have this beautiful, smart, caring, witty, fun, amazing young lady sharing pieces of herself with me? Teaching me about love, commitment, responsibility and patience. Daring me to be a better human being. Testing my limits. Pushing my boundaries.

Forcing my heart to grow three sizes that day.

35 Comments

Filed under children, Motherhood

We Are All Simply Wonderful

Writing yesterday of our sweet little foster girls had stirred up so many sleeping thoughts.  We had them in our home for such a very short time but they made an amazing impact on my life. And if they took only one thing with them when they left – just one thing – I hope they know how wonderful they are.

“The person that you were has died
You’ve lost the sparkle in your eyes” – I have a picture of Ashley. The light hits her in such a way that her eyes are highlighted. A flash of light across her face and you can see so much in those beautiful blue eyes of hers. But not good things. Horrible things. Terror. Fear. Insecurity. Mistrust. A sparkle that is sinister. Eyes so old with a heart so young. She saw more horror than I had ever seen in my 30 years.

“Now you wanna bridge the gaps
Now you want that person back” – I saw good flashes in her eyes, too. When she’d remember she was just a child. She was supposed to sleep at night cuddled up safely with her teddy bear – not worrying about who was going to creep into her bed and do unspeakable things. She was supposed to love to laugh – not cry silently so as not to wake her sister after it was all over. She was supposed to play with dolls and crayons – not accompany her mother to the store so they could pull off their next ruse. She was supposed to watch Sesame Street and Barney – not Hellraiser while her mom was “at work” in the next room with her “client.”

“You don’t know what you wanna do
You’ve got no pull to pull you through” – Lost. Not knowing who you are at age 6. Energies completely spent and you’ve only graced this beautiful Earth such a very short time.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”” – Look in the mirror, Ashley. With those big, beautiful, blue eyes that have seen too much. You are wonderful!

“If what you’ve lost cannot be found
And the weight of the world weighs you down
No longer with the will to fly
You stop to let it pass you by
Don’t stop to let it pass you by
You’ve gotta look yourself in the eye” – I have no idea what happened to them after they left us. I can guess. I’d love the best case scenario – they were placed in an amazing home, adopted into a forever family and thrived. But I imagine the worst. She was an older child and more “damaged.” She was separated from her sister and continued to bounce around from home to home – never attaching, never forming lasting relationships. She’s lost her will. She’s let love pass her by.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”” – Please Ashley. Please say you found a forever family who loves you. Who helped you with your demons. People that could see just how wonderful you are. And helped you to see it, too.

“Cause we are all miracles
Wrapped up in chemicals
We are incredible” – It’s amazing to me that we all start out the very same way. Innocent. Small miracles. Pure little blank slates. And then a twist of fate changes our entire being. “But for the grace of God go I” How did I dodge that bullet? Or my children? My own childhood was not great – but terror and horror? Never. Why Ashley and not me?

“Don’t take it for granted, no
We are all miracles
Oh we are” – All you parents out there…cherish those precious little souls that you are in charge of. Hug them close every night. Tell them you love them every chance you get. Tell them they are wonderful. Because they are.

“Say “I am”
Say “I am”
Say “I am wonderful”
Oh you are” – Simply wonderful. Yes, even you. Each child out there. Each and every adult. We are all amazing, wonderful beings.

16 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes

The Word ‘Parent’ Is Also A Verb

par-ent (per’ ent) n. 1. One who begets, gives birth to, or nurtures and raises a child; a father or mother.2. An ancestor; a progenitor.3. An organism that produces or generates offspring.( The Free Dictionary)

“An organism that produces or generates offspring” – I like that noun definition of the word ‘parent.’ It shouldn’t be the only way to define the word but it’s a valid definition. It’s the way the courts should view the biological creators of the pitiful, damaged and precious offspring cluttering up our foster care system.

While in the midst of adoption and waiting for our child, our social worker convinced us to keep foster children. It was a heart wrenching experience. Two little girls were placed with us who experienced every kind of neglect you can imagine. The abuse included physical and sexual by both the mother and her many boyfriends. Ashley was 5 years old, just about to turn 6. Jennifer had just turned 3. Two precious little souls. Lost. Because our court system couldn’t find a dictionary that contained the full definition of the word parent.

The girls were precious. But they were a handful. Nightmares that contained scenes from the Hellraiser movies. Food stuffed in toys, shoes, pockets and play purses. Knives and scissors tucked under pillows. Missing silverware, mostly knives. Stealing small items like candy and gum from stores. Feces spread over the bathroom walls after every supervised visit with the birthmother. Crying jags that could last for hours. Precocious behavior. Gorging themselves at mealtime.

I read back what I’ve written and I wonder why in the world we wanted to adopt them. Handful seems like such a mild word to describe them if you just look at the difficult times. But there were so many good times. The laughter that would finally appear a day or two after a visit with the birthmom. The sense of pride when good behavior was recognized and rewarded. The cuddles and giggles. The sweet way that Ashley took care of Jennifer – a little mommy at age 5. The way Jennifer idolized her big sister. Taking them to parks, The Nutcracker, even the mall merry-go-round was such a treat to them. They took nothing for granted. They soaked in every experience with relish.

At that time in my life, while my music tastes were broad, I typically only listened to alternative rock and classical. Ashley, on the other hand, at age 6, LOVED country and pop. Suddenly I was listening to “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus and Whitney Houston’s rendition of Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You.” One of Ashley’s favorite songs was “Save the Best for Last” by Vanessa Williams. One day, while running errands, the song came on the car radio. Ashley squealed, “Turn it up, Mommy!” We sang together at the top of our lungs. But we were almost home and the song wasn’t even half over. I kept driving. Ashley said, “Mommy! You missed our street.” I told her I thought she’d want to finish singing the song. “Oh, Mommy” was all she could say. I looked in the rearview mirror and she was crying. I was worried – afraid I’d done something wrong. (Our lives were so different now: creating structure, daily schedules, anticipating worry and fear, etc.) I stopped the car to make sure she was ok. She said, “Mommy, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”

Ashley had been in and out of the system since she was two. Jennifer didn’t know anything else. And because Jennifer was young, sweet and not as ‘damaged’ (although, she was our ‘poop artist’) there were plenty of people who wanted her in their homes, hoping to eventually adopt her. Ashley was older. More guarded. More devious. It was harder to see through her coat of armor. By the time they reached us then had been in more than 8 homes. Their stay with us was their longest.

The birthmom was a mess. Alcohol. Prostitution. All she had to do to get her children back was: 1- go to AA meetings, 2- maintain ONE household, and 3- hold down ONE job. That’s ALL she had to do. You take away my children? I’d move mountains to get them back. She, on the other hand, continually skipped her AA meetings. She moved from apartment to motel to friend’s apartment. She quit or was fired from 5 jobs in the 10 months that we had her children. And every time the case went up for review (once every four months) the judge gave her more time to get her act together. Every. Single. Time.

And this was nothing new. He was giving her second, fifth, umpteenth chances every time her review came along. Always the same answer, “We’ll give you four more months.”  And we had enough. The tug and pull. The string of good days and then the monthly visit with the birthmom would tear apart all of our progress. It would take days to get back on track. It was hard on us. But it was damaging to the girls. It was wrong.

par-ent (per’ ent) v. 1. to bear or rear children. 2. to act as a parent to ( Wordsmyth)

We were parenting these precious little beings the best way we knew how and we were seeing joy, love and progress. And every few months a court system, that only saw biological ties to another human being, told us that DNA was more important than a safe, loving home. Kissing boo-boos, calming fears, sharing joy, nurturing little souls was secondary to genetic coding.

At the last hearing we were privy to, the judge, as expected, gave the birthmother “four more months” to get her act together. I was livid. As foster parents we didn’t have a say. We stood out in the lobby waiting the decision. When our social worker told us the news I stormed into the judges chambers. I blew past the law secretary and into his office as he was taking off his robe. I said, “We’re offering to pay for their college education. But you’re telling me we’re going to have to pay for their prison term instead! This is unacceptable!” All he said was, “Get her out! Get her out!” And I walked out. I was shaking and had no idea what else I would say.

I found out later from a friend who is a CASA volunteer that I could have been thrown in jail. I wouldn’t have minded. If it could save one more child from an inadequate, ineffective foster care system? I wouldn’t have minded at all.

29 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes, children

The Adoption Triangle of Love

When I was searching for ideas for my 100th post my friend, LLCoolJoe, asked about my experience with adoption. First of all, I could probably start a whole new blog and have plenty of material on adoption alone. I can go on and on about how adoption has touched my life. Today I’m going to share with you this nifty little piece of jewelry I found years ago.

It’s called the adoption triangle of love. Just after we adopted our daughter my husband had it made for me from a picture he saw in an adoption magazine. The premise is that each person involved (the birth parents, the adoptive parents and the child) are all joined in love. I loved this idea. I loved wearing this symbol of my part in the adoption process. And then, one day, while teaching my incredible students, one of them asked why I was wearing a Star of David. I laughed. Yes, it did look a bit like the Star of David. But I explained what the symbol meant and he scoffed, “There’s no love in adoption!”

I was stunned. He said, “The only person that gains from adoption is the adoptive parent. The birth parent is just a selfish (fill in the blank) who was too lazy to care for her own child and the child is just another piece of unwanted garbage tossed aside.” I was at a loss for words.

Ever since I was a little girl my mother said I’ve wanted to adopt. She said when I was very young I would say, “I’m going to have one on my own first and then adopt the rest.” I pictured a house full of children. All colors. All genders. All abilities. I have no idea how I created this vision for my life. Fast forward twenty years and I received the news that I was infertile. No big deal, I thought. We’ll just adopt. I’ve never been one of those women who needed to experience pregnancy.

Selfishly, I chose to go the route of international adoption. Selfish because I was not willing to take the risk of a failed adoption here in the U.S. I had heard too many stories of birth fathers suddenly coming into the picture, or the birth mother changing her mind after the baby has been placed. Do you remember the Baby Jessica case back in the 90’s? A 2 1/2-year-old girl, ripped from her adoptive parents arms because the birth mother (who a year after choosing adoption for her baby ended up married to the birth father after all) changed her mind. It was heart wrenching. DNA does not determine who the parent is, in my book. It’s who steps up to the plate to take care of the child.

The mountain of paper work is daunting. The hoops you have to jump through (psychological tests, physical exams, letters of recommendation, fingerprints filed, financial records verified, parenting classes) are many. The expense is a fair amount. And I mean that in every sense of the word. No one gets rich off of adoption – unless, of course, you’re dealing with unscrupulous people. But that can happen in any financial transaction. Once everything is all said and done, the expense (in our experience anyway) was about the amount we’d need for a biological birth. I wasn’t able to be covered for insurance for a birth anyway because of my infertility – so the cost would be the same if I got pregnant. (Which actually happened years later but that’s for another post)

It took a little over a year for us to complete the process. And during that time I’d sit at the OB/GYN for my annual exam and see teenagers complaining about how uncomfortable they were, being 8 months pregnant. Unmarried. Planning on keeping their child  – with grandma’s help, that is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that choice, as long it provides a strong, stable home for the child. But many times, it doesn’t. I would sit there remembering that line from the movie Parenthood; “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father.” Or mother, for that matter.

Having been raised Catholic, I struggle with the issue of abortion. For me, hopefully for my daughter, abortion is not an option. But when I see all those protestors lining the streets with their signs outside Planned Parenthood clinics I want to shout, “How many children have you adopted?” It’s easy for me to tell someone else you shouldn’t abort. I have a job. A home. Supportive family and friends. But do I have a plan for her if she chooses to give birth? I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes. I have no idea what her personal struggle is.

But choosing adoption for your child when you know you can’t provide the life your baby deserves? Heroic. Amazing. A decision – especially now that I’ve been able to experience the miracle of birth – that is made completely and totally with love. Absolutely. Without any doubt in my mind. 

I have two children through adoption. Two birth mothers that made the most difficult, yet loving decision for their child. I am incredibly honored that they touched my life by entrusting the care of their biological child with me. They could have chosen an easier route. But they didn’t. They chose the difficult path because that was in the best interest of their child. I believe that God entrusts us, as parents, with children to raise. He loans them to us -through biology or adoption – to care for their needs as only we can do in the physical world. Biological or not, they are children that need shelter and guidance until they are on their own.

But maybe my former student was right. Maybe I am the only one who “gained” anything from the process. From my perspective I have gained so much. I have two beautiful children through adoption that I cherish and love. I’d like to think that they gained something too, having a stable, loving home to be nurtured in until they are ready to take charge of their own lives. And the birth parents of my children dug deep in their hearts to make the most difficult, best choice for their child. An adoption triangle. Complicated. Complex. But definitely connected in love. No doubt in my mind.

32 Comments

Filed under Be-Causes, children, Soapbox