The expectant mom we met with selected another couple. We are a bit disappointed, but also kinda feel like it was not a situation meant for us anyway. So we are OK with what happened. Actually, the whole situation has made us think about what is right for our family and we decided that moving forward, we will only consider children who are at least part African American. This is best for Seven and feels like the right thing to do.
Well, my house is continuing to be more clean than it’s ever been before. After finally talking with our case worker, we learned about a potential adoption situation. I don’t want to provide details here, but there is a lot for us to think about. We were curious enough that we wanted to learn more and actually met with the expectant mother this weekend. Since we never had the opportunity to meet Seven’s birthmother before he was placed in our care, this was a new experience. We were pretty nervous before the meeting, but it went well.
We are trying to decide if we want to move forward. Of course, she may decide not to move forward with us. The funny thing is that my husband seems to want to move forward more than I do. It’s not that I don’t want to, just that I have some concerns. The main issue that we are trying to work through is the importance of our second adoption also being transracial so that Seven is not the only non-White member of our household. We were originally thinking that is what we would do. And then this situation comes into our laps and I feel like it’s not our place to refuse children who need a home.
Most of my evenings start out with good intentions. As I drive home I think of the laundry I will do and rooms I will organize. And then of course nothing gets done. Once we get through dinner, Seven’s bedtime routine and tuck him in, my motivation to do anything around the house is completely gone.
But today I happened to check my voicemail as I was making dinner and noticed a call from our caseworker. All she said was to call her back because they have a potential adoption situation for us. She didn’t answer when I called her back. It’s been about an hour. And the laundry is folded, clothes are put away, and floor is swept.
I am having a really hard time writing our “dear birthparent letter” this time around. It was hard the first time, but is even more difficult now. You would think having a first draft would help, but I don’t think the letter that was on our first profile really applies anymore. For one, we need to talk about our life with our son and who we are as parents. Thinking about our life now, that first letter seemed pretty abstract about what we “thought” we would be like as parents. I don’t think we have completely changed who we are as people, it’s just much different to think theoretically what life with a child would be like and what in practice you actually do. I mean, you know your life will change but can’t really fathom what that means until it is here.
The other reason I’m having a really hard time writing this letter is that we need to address (at least in broad terms) the type of openness we are looking for. And here’s where it gets even harder. Right now we have a semi-open, fully disclosed adoption. That means we know the full names of our son’s first parents and they know ours. But, our only real contact with them is by email about once a month. This is pretty consistent with what his first mom wanted, even as we were open to more contact. The problem is that I don’t know how to think about the type of openness we will have in a second adoption given where we are with the first one.
The thing is, even though we initially wanted more contact, if I am honest, I am pretty happy with where we are. I have started some things to make adoption and his birthfamily part of our conversations–such as reading children books with an adoption theme and including pictures of his birthfamily in a little flip photo album that we use to show him pictures of other out of town photo albums. But even with those things, it doesn’t feel like his birthfamily is a daily part of our lives. Of course, that is easy for me to say since my son isn’t vocal enough yet to give his opinion on that! And that’s really the hard part for me. I wonder all the time if we are doing the right thing by him in terms of how we interact with his birthfamily.
And then I wonder if we need to have a similar level of openness with our second child’s birthfamily. Would it create problems if there were big differences in how we interact with their families?
I’ve been pretty slammed at work and so haven’t had much time to focus on anything else. And so I hardly even noticed when the email from our social worker slipped into my inbox today. But now here we are, home study approved again! I’ve been waiting for this to come. I mistakenly thought get our home study updated for a second child would be less intense then the first go around, but that was not the case. We’ve been frustrated by several new steps the agency has added to the process now. And yet now that we are approved, I’m worried…hesitant…anxious.
How do I begin putting together a profile that captures who we are as a family of three? And who we might be as a family of four? It seems like our son is changing so fast…and that our life with him is changing so fast. I actually started updating our profile book several months when we were first updating the home study, thinking that the home study wouldn’t take so long. But I look at it now and it seems so out of date. Did I really put a picture of him in a high chair? He won’t go in one now! A stroller? He prefers to walk (OK, run) everywhere.
Defining our life as a family of three and putting it out there for a potential birthmother to see somehow seems way more high stakes than painting a picture of just M and I as a couple. Then my ideas of who I would be as a mother were just in the abstract. But it’s here now. It’s our reality. And I am overwhelmed by how to begin capturing it in a few pages.
I’m a redhead. My hair color is my one physical feature that never fails to draw a compliment. I don’t say that to start a pity party about my looks, but let’s face it—I’m no supermodel. Yet my natural hair color is unique and a source of admiration by others. So I like to flaunt it.
As my husband and I were in the nadir of our struggle with infertility and trying to figure out what to do, we attended a mind-body workshop meant for couples with infertility. At one point during this weekend, the conversation turned to adoption. One gentleman revealed his hesitancy at not being able to pass on his genes or his family’s genes. The counselor’s advice was pretty much, “get over it-your family’s genes aren’t so special.” You can imagine why that wasn’t such a terribly helpful thing to say. We had already been thinking about adoption, but this gentleman’s response made me realize my own source of hesitancy.
I’ve always pictured myself with a redheaded baby. Sharing a biological link to my child or passing on my genes didn’t really matter to me in the abstract. But giving up all hope of having a redhead? That made it real. Now the rational side of me would point out that merging my genes with my husband’s would put some constraints on that plan to have a redheaded baby, but there was that sliver of Irish blood in him…there was still hope, right?
Obviously we did decide that adoption was the right path for us. And not only adoption, but transracial adoption. In the grand scheme of things, red hair is not that important. So now our adorable little brown-skinned and black-haired little boy is part of our family. And really, how can you get cuter than him?
Except he is a redhead! At least if you count having one red hair as being a redhead. I don’t have an explanation for it, but he has one strand of red hair (copper, really) on the top, right side of his head. When I was combing his hair one day, I first thought it was paint. But, no, it’s real. And it’s been independently verified by someone who isn’t biased about redheads (i.e., my husband). I’m not really one to talk about my son being “destined” to be with me because his birthmother had a hard decision to make. But at times like this, yes, he is definitely my son.
Do you ever think about how you look to the general public? Now, I’m not talking about whether your hair is perfect or your rear looks big in those jeans. But when strangers see you out and about, what do you make them think about? There is, of course, way more to all of us than what is apparent on the outside–and many times our real personality may not even conform to whatever stereotype our appearance evokes. But I do find myself wondering what stories pop into strangers’ heads when they see me and my son around town.
My curiosity about how strangers view us could just be my own neuroses. My son certainly does not seem to mind how others see us-he looks at me and sees only his mommy. All those people stopping us to comment on how cute he is or ask how old he is are only suspicious characters trying to distract me from giving him my full attention. Yet often I wonder if the added attention we get from the random passerby has to do how we came to each other and how our skin colors mark us as different and – to a stranger at least – not belonging to each other. I used to always assume that the average stranger sees us together and thinks about adoption, wondering if he was born in the US or another country. Perhaps that’s because it’s a question I ask when I see a parent-child pair of different races. Just today there was a White mama dropping off an Asian daughter at his daycare and my thoughts turned to adoption even though I had no clue about their real situation.
At least until recently when I was talking with a colleague who worked in another state. We work for different organizations that collaborate closely, holding monthly in person meetings. At one of the first meetings, I showed off lots of pictures of my son to everyone there. Of course being the usual proud mama who wants to brag on her kids. At the most recent meeting she mentioned she’s read a lot on racial identity development. It was more of passing comment made in a group setting but it sparked my interest. I am curious to watch how he develops his racial identity. How he resolves the fact that he is African American and Hispanic with White parents is a whole other topic. But I did read something that says by their second birthdays, toddlers in transracial families will have picked up on the difference in color and–if not quite its importance, the sense that skin color difference is not quite the same as having a different hair color. So later on when we were on our way to dinner, I asked her to recommend books I could read on racial identity development. As we got to talking, I told her about our situation. She was surprised and said that when she saw the pictures of my son, she assumed my husband was African American and that he was our biological son. It never occurred to her to think about adoption.
This was quite a new thought to me–the idea that we could “pass” as biologically related to each other when my husband is not with us. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of the adoption and don’t want Seven to feel that we need to “pass”. But sometimes you just don’t want to stick out or worry that if he has a meltdown someone will take it as commentary on all adoptive families and not what it is–a toddler being a toddler.
And then a story like this comes out where a father is questioned by the police because he has a different skin color than his daughters and “they just don’t fit together.” And it’s back to square one all over again. It is so disheartening to read that we haven’t come as far as I hoped in recognizing the diversity in all our families.