Monday, April 30, 2012

For the Love of Red Tape

It is so easy to be frustrated by the time that adoption takes.  Red tape and paper work galore and governments that don't seem to be on our side...it can make you feel as though you are going insane.  But the reality is that for the most part, our brush with insanity comes from our narrow view on adoption.  We tend to think about ourselves and our families and how all we are wanted to do is love a child who needs to be loved and why won't they just work with us?!

But the reality is that in adoption it is hardly about the adoptive family.  First and foremost it is about the children, then it is about the birth families, then the system that is in place to protect the first two groups and THEN it is about the adoptive family.  I know, it sucks, but it needs to be this way and as adoptive families the best thing we can do is support this order.

The part that really tends to get to us is the system.  But good systems are vital to adoption.  Without them things can get really messy real fast.  Children and birth families are taken advantage of, which in turn is bad for adoptive families, even if they end up with a child.  That's not all this is about.  Once again, this is where growing a biological family and growing an adoptive family are very different.  While we have an individual goal of wanting a child, we are a part of a global issue and we need to keep that in perspective.

I recently read this article on Ethiopian adoption.  It was a good reminder that many countries have systems that leave all sorts of space for corruption.  And while it may get children into homes, that is NOT all that matters.

And this is why I love Rwanda.  And this is why, although the closure of its doors and all the new red tape that is being strung up is frustrating, I support it.  I am proud of Rwanda for recognizing, as adoptions began to increase there, that they needed to slow things down and make sure that they were doing things the right way.  That they were more than willing to upset a few families in order to protect their children and the people of Rwanda.  It was the right thing for them to do.  It may mean that we are not able to adopt from there again (which, by the way, would break my heart), but it isn't about our family and what we want.  There is something so much bigger going on that we have been able to be a part of and I need to remember...we all do.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Risky Business

In the past month, I have known of two families whose adopted children have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  Both have had a number of additional health issues.  One family knew some of what they were getting into when they were matched with their son...the other waited longer for their adoption to be finalized because they were on the "healthy" list rather than "special needs".  Obviously, they didn't have a clue.

Welcome to the world of adoption.

While we were working through our adoption of Nathan, we would get some comments and questions about his health.  It was this whole idea that when you have biological children, you kinda know what you are getting, but when you are adopting you are taking some major chances.  With Nate, we knew absolutely nothing about his biological family.  We had no clue what genetic disadvantages (or advantages) he was carrying in that sweet little body.

Some of the questions were coming from a concern about his health, others had to do with his personality.  I mean, we have all heard the horror stories of adopted children who go psycho and turn on their adoptive families, right?  Well, if you haven't, trust me, its just like labor horror stories and how the second you become pregnant everyone feels compelled to try to scare the crap out of you.  When you are adopting, everyone seems to have a neighbor whose cousin's sister-in-law's childhood best friend experienced some sort of tragedy at the hands of their adopted son or daughter.

Needless to say, these types of conversations always bothered me.  No one wants to be told that your child is going to be messed up (especially when no one has even met him or her!).  No one wants to have the dreams that they have held to during the process destroyed.  And so the mother bear within us begins to surface.

As soon as I had Nate in my care I was out to prove that there was nothing "wrong" with him.  There were a few people in my life in particular that I wanted to prove this to.  But the truth was that he had some issues right off. He was super congested, which made him drool and spit up all the time and snore like an old man.  The docs in Ethiopia thought he had a chest infection and gave me a prescription.  Of course, I never could find a pharmacy that could fill it, but that ended up not mattering as when we got back we learned that he didn't have one after all.  He has allergies and intolerances and has needed his tonsils and adenoids removed.  He has had tubes put in his ears and suffered a time of hearing loss because of fluid behind his ear drums.  This has caused some delays in speech...

But these all seemed like little things.  Just a little of getting the right diet and medical attention and that's it.  Once we had all that in order he would be just as "normal" as can be.  No extra issues for this adopted child.

So, a year went by and then another and in November we celebrated three amazing years with our sweet Rwandese boy...and you know what?  In my mama bear attempt to make sure that he wasn't seen as just another adopted kid with issues, I ignored some of the ones that had been presenting themselves to us over the years.  Issues of attachment and communication and some cognitive gaps.  Some of which need to be addressed with the help of professionals.  Some of them would probably have been issues no matter what his start in life was, but some of them are probably unique to the fact that he was abandoned as an infant, and while cared for beautifully those first 11 months, he was still not getting quite the same amount of attention and help that he may have had during that time if he had been in a family.

As adoptive parents we live in this tension of trying to teach others that our kids are just our kids, biological or adopted, while at the same time having to face the fact that our adoptive kids do often come with unique issues.  And while we should defend our kids against the prejudices that so many (even well-meaning family members) have about adopted children, we can not let it blind us to the issues that they may indeed have.  We need to be students of our children and advocates of their care.  We need to love them.

And so my perspective has changed.  I am no longer afraid of Nate having some issues.  I am dealing with them just as I would any of our biological children.  I'm willing to see the fact that his history may indeed bring some issues into his life and be okay with that.  And I also need to be willing to teach others to be aware and to help us with it.

When I was filling out paperwork for the school district that was going to be evaluating some of the issues that we are seeing in Nate, I found myself frustrated with the questions they asked...

What was my pregnancy like?
Were there any complications at birth?
What about relevant family history?

I couldn't answer a single one of those, but I had a whole bunch that I could have answered, that would be helpful in their evaluation of him, that they never asked.  There was one question about whether or not he was adopted, but nothing to follow it up.  It was painfully inadequate.  I jotted a note at the end of the form to tell them that too.  Not in a snarky way, but because I felt they needed to understand that as they dealt with us and other adoptive families that they were completely missing out on a lot of important information.

Adoption is a risky business, there is no doubt about it.  But isn't parenthood always risky?  Aren't we always taking the chance of our children not being exactly what we dreamed of?  And wouldn't we all be doing a huge disservice to ALL of our children, if we let our dreams get in the way of accepting and loving them just as God saw fit to bring them to us?

I wanted to end this post with the link to another post that you MUST go read.  It's not written by an adoptive mom, but it was written by a mom who came face to face with a crushed dream.  It is a beautiful story of sadness and love...of motherhood.  The post is of her daughter's birth story and seriously, you should read it, but to give you a little taste here is the trailer to the book she just released...


My hope is that in my life as a mom, I will always be willing to risk loving my children extravagantly, no matter what they bring to the table...just as God loves each of us.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sweet Peace

Making the decision to move forward with our family biologically is not one we took lightly.  Sure, we pretty much talked about it just a couple of times and a few weeks later I was plopping the digital test down in front of Anthony.  "Of course you are." he said with a laugh.  But although the conversations were few, we are both deep thinkers and when we find ourselves thinking the same way, we just go ahead and jump into things...big things: marriage, having babies, adoption, building a house...

And once we decide something, we quickly settle into the peace that comes with making a decision.  And then once again we slip into a bit of silence about the topic.  Instead of conversations of "did we really make the right choice?", we just tend to look at one another and laugh and wonder at the fact that we have jumped, yet again, into something big.  But we never doubt the path we take...

This decision has been no different.  We are thrilled to be adding to our family.  We sit on the couch and stare at my belly, getting giddy every time our son jumps enough for us both to be reminded that he is really in there.  We talk with the kids about their new brother and there is just this excitement running through our family...

And the peace that has come upon us has been almost tangible.  We had felt so restless as we waited for Rwanda to reopen, desperately hoping to add to our family.  And now, we are at peace.

But here is the thing that surprised me.  I figured that having our son would cause me to put Rwanda out of my mind for a while, but I couldn't have been more wrong.  If anything, I think about Rwanda more than ever.  I wonder if God has a sweet little girl in those hills who will one day be one of our own.  I can't look at a dark little lady without an ache in my heart.  And yet it feels so different.  There isn't a desperation in my heart.  There is a calm, an assurance.  I guess that having our son has just reminded us that God is in control.  That His plans are bigger and better than we could ever hope for.

So, as each day my love and hope for Rwanda and our family continues to deepen, I have found that my trust and the peace that comes with that has too.  And I have to say, it's been pretty sweet.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Another Lesson From Rwanda

Rwanda has taught me a lot, but certainly one of the most profound things that I feel like we all can learn from Rwanda is that of the power of forgiveness.  I blogged a year ago about a documentary that explores this and still think that you should watch it if you haven't yet...it is amazing.

But there is another lesson that I think we can learn from Rwanda...

18 years ago, Rwanda was in the throws of the genocide.  The country was completely divided, you were Hutu or you were Tutsi and things were assumed about you simply by what your identity card said you were.  People lived and died according to those cards and the label that they carried.  Following the genocide, these labels of Hutu and Tutsi began to disappear.  The country made a decision that in order to move forward, they would need to do so as one Rwandese people.  It isn't perfect there and there are certainly underlying tensions, but the children...the future of Rwanda...are being taught to think of each other as one people and they are healing as a country and they are moving forward.

I've been thinking about this a lot in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Look, I have no idea what happened there, but I have been really disturbed by some of the response that I have seen to it.  Immediately it became a huge race issue and once again divided our country.  And the truth is, it may have been a race thing...I don't know...but the fact that it was immediately ASSUMED to be by so many really bothers me.

I grew up in upstate New York.  The way public schools were there a bunch of kids (usually black) from the inner-city were bussed into the suburban schools.  These kids were my friends.  But every once in a while, if I got into a little tiff with one of them, it wasn't uncommon for the words, "you're just saying that cause I'm black" to come out.  This drove me crazy because it never had anything to do with their race, we were just a bunch of teenagers who got into it with each other sometimes and I always felt like this posture they took immediately divided us.  And of course, the real issue went undealt with.

I have a black son and the reality is that he may find himself dealing with racial discrimination throughout his life.  And I hate that.  But I do NOT want him to assume that anytime he has some sort of tiff with someone that it is because he is black.  It may be a race thing, but I don't him to start there.  I don't want him to walk around with this defensive posture because of his color.  Just like I don't want my girls to assume that they are being discriminated against because they are women.  It may be that they are, but for them to walk around just waiting for someone to mistreat them because of that...that is no way to live and it is certainly no way to move forward.

The thing is that we can't just assume that time is going to change things.  It has been a long time already and the same old attitudes are just below the surface (or just on the surface!) at all times.  And yet, look at Rwanda.  It has been less than 20 years and the literal, physical scars are still there, and yet they have chosen to move forward.  They are redefining themselves in order to be united as a country.  Racism still occurs and probably always will, but there is an attitude shift and they are moving forward.

My hope is to bring my kids up in a way that they carry a similar attitude.  That they won't assume that people mean the worst.  That they will be fair in dealing with people and issues and won't just dismiss things as racial or sexist.  I think this will empower them.  They won't view themselves as victims.  And then when they experience discrimination, I think that they will be able to do so in a less defensive and much more progressive manner.

And my hope for the US is that they will embrace this to.   Because we will never really move forward until we do.  We could learn a lot from Rwanda.

**I was getting dressed after I posted this and I realized that there was one more thing that I wanted to say.  This issue of walking around in a defensive posture is something that I struggle with.  For me, it shows in my relationships with certain people.  Someone says something that if it came from anyone else I wouldn't think anything of it, but from them it is painful insult.  I assume that they are being hurtful and I end up feeling hurt a lot.  If I could change my posture and how I approached these relationships, I think that I would find that they don't always mean what I assume they mean.  And when they are being hurtful?  I think I could deal with them with a lot more grace.  And if I could do that...well, that would only help that relationship move into a better place.  Not perfect, perhaps not even, not hurting, but better.

So, I guess I hope this for myself too...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Finally, Some News.

News and Events

The Rwanda accedes to the Hague Convention of 1993 on international adoption 

28-03-2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012, Rwanda has deposited its instrument of accession to the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption and became the 87th Contracting State of this Convention .

The 1993 Convention will enter into force for Rwanda 1 July 2012.

I have no idea what this will mean for us, but I'm so proud of Rwanda for doing what they set out to do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oh Boy!!

Today we found out that we are having a boy! We are so excited. Nathan is going to have a brother...I am so so happy.

And everyone seems so excited for us. I think pretty much everyone was pulling for a boy. But I wanted to give you a quick word of warning in your attempts to congratulate us...don't use the word finally. We are not finally having a boy. Sure this is our first biological son, but we already have a son. Our son is getting a brother and we are so excited.