7.26.2010

Processing

We recently celebrated five months home with Evangeline. There have been many times that I have wanted to sit down and write a blog post about the emotions I have experienced since bringing Evie home. But the words haven't flowed. Probably because I haven't finished processing it all myself.

One thing that is not hard to articulate is the importance of traveling to your child's birth country. Personally, I found this to be so vital. Yes, we watched videos and read books on Ethiopia. Yes, we followed Ethiopian adoption blogs. Those information sources are good, but they can only convey so much. All the reading in the world is never the same as actually experiencing the country. I am so glad that in adoption today most families are required to travel to their child's birth country. It was really a magical experience. It was every bit as exciting as the births of our other two kids and equally as transforming.

One thing I've learned as an adoptive parent of an internationally adopted child is that very quickly you don't even realize that your children are different races. I look at Evie and see our child. There are times we are out and I notice people looking at our family and I'll think, "Why are they looking at us?" It actually takes a moment to click that we look different than most families. But this only reinforces the fact that the world is not color blind. Studies suggest that how a child perceives his or her ethnic identity corresponds with how they perceive themselves. So as a transracial family, it's important for us to make sure that we weave Ethiopia into the texture of our family, through food, art, discussion and travel. From this perspective, again, travel to Ethiopia was invaluable to us. For us to fall in love with Ethiopia as we did - with the music, the food, the warmhearted people -- is in a sense like falling more deeply in love with Evie. Our family intends to go back as Evie grows.

I've also found myself processing the bittersweet emotions involved in adoption. After our trip to Ethiopia, I was saddened by the fact that we have no connection to Evie's birth family. I wanted to meet them. I wanted them to know that Evie was loved and cherished. There were many nights that Evie and I rocked together in the darkness of her room and questions flooded my mind. Questions about all of the unknowns. Questions that are my questions, not hers. Questions that I do not want to project on her as she grows, so I will keep them to myself. I want her to have her own questions. I want to be open and receptive and journey with her when these questions arise. Experiencing these questions myself only reaffirmed the sense of grief and loss that is inherent to adoption and that we cannot turn a blind eye to it. One given about adoption is that it starts with loss.

Another topic that Dan and I have wrestled with since coming home is balancing the tension between what is often called the orphan crisis and to wanting to be clear that our child is not a charity case. This issues makes me downright prickly at times. Reading about the 150 millions orphans in the world, only 1% of whom are eligible for adoption, makes one feel compelled to do something. I am an advocate for adoption and it is obviously better for children to be raised in families than in orphanages. This said, I do not, I repeat do not, think anyone should go into adoption primarily out of a sense of obligation, feeling as though it is their christian duty, or pursue it as a way to grow their faith. Children are blessings. There are many people who would have loved to adopt Evie. I read the posts on our yahoo group of the longing for referrals. I have seen what has happened in China, people waiting years for an adoption. These kids are not unwanted.

Adoption is not going to be right for every family and that's okay. If one desires to help orphans and widows, there is so much that can be done. What about cultivating a relationship with a child through Compassion International? We have so enjoyed our correspondence with our children through Compassion and feel glad that families are staying together because of the work Compassion does. There's Glimmer of Hope, which does projects in Ethiopia. They do everything from building wells to building schools. Did you know that one well can change the lives of 250 people? And speaking of wells, Charity Water is another great organization. Did you know that worldwide, almost 1 billion people do not have access to clean water? Can you believe that for only $20, you can give one person clean water for 20 years? Then there are the 100 million orphans that are not eligible for adoption. What can we do to help and protect them?

Adoption is not charity. If we feel pulled toward adoption, I hope that we feel it is a privilege and not an obligation. As one adoptive mom said to me, "Ethiopian adoption has opened up this whole new world to me that I would never have know of before." Another mother of both bio and adopted children shared with me, "I never want my kids to feel I adopted them because it was my christian duty. It was because I love being a mom." I hope that Evie gets that same sense from us. That we're the lucky ones.

I don't usually spill here on my blog, but I wanted to put some of these thoughts out there given that this started as an adoption blog. I'm not saying that I have all (or any!) of the answers. This is just where I find myself today, five month after bring Evangeline home. I'd love to hear from you, too.

13 comments:

  1. I love it when you "spill". :)

    I totally agree on travelling to our children's birth countries. I can't imagine not falling in love with both China and Ethiopia. I feel a deep pull to both places. We plan to do all that we can to embrace both cultures, and hope to travel back someday.

    I am doing so much praying on how to be a transracial family. I'll fully admit to having fear, so I am just asking God to replace that with His strength. Your family is a beautiful example to me.

    Caring for orphans is a charge directly from God. Agreed that everyone is not called to adopt. I find that people sometimes feel that they have to defend themselves for NOT adopting around me. I try hard to respond gently and lovingly, while nudging the person on to DO something for orphans. We are long time Compassion sponsors, and always suggest child sponsorship.

    I too feel so sad for all that I am getting ready to take our girls from. So sad that they will be taken from their home, and that we'll never meet the birth families. It is almost more than my heart can bear. I have so, so many questions in my mother's heart. I'll just have to trust God every single step of the way.

    Lovely post. Thank you!

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  2. This is really amazing. I love your blog. We are adopting from Ethiopia too and I feel the way your friend does, I love being a mom. I would like to share this on my blog. Would that be okay?

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  3. becky, of course you can share. thank you for your kind words and support! :)

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  4. This is an outstanding post and for so many reaosns. I think you articulated beautifully the inherent struggle that so many of us face as adoptive families:

    .......To celebrate this incredible blessing and gift....that began in the wake of another's tremendous loss. I hold that with me always, knowing it may very well someday affect our children as they one day process their own stories and better understand how our family was formed.

    2 things especially captured my own sentiments in this post: I couldn't agree more about the importance of traveling and spending time in our children's country of birth. Its priceless and life changing ~ over & again. We too cannot wait to one day return as a family and visit each country again.

    Second I respect that you are keeping your questions, sorrows and such private ~ and in doing so allowing Evie the freedom to form her own~ to have an authentic experience ~ to one day express her own thoughts in her own time and in her own way....knowing she can do so in a safe, nuturing, loving and validated environment.

    Finally I completely agree and have also publically shared before that adoption should never be about saving a child or charity. As you stated there are so many ways to help if that is the motivation. Adoption IS a gift, a privilege and yes........we are indeed the lucky ones! I never tire of saying that!!

    Beautiful....just beautiful my friend!!

    I'm so thankful you shared this with us all!

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  5. WONDERFUL!
    Evie needed a Mommy...you are a MOMMY..that simple.
    I loved every word!

    I love you Kiss Dan and the
    Rugrats for me.
    Still trying to get to San An.

    xoxo,
    A

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  6. Wow, Rachel. I gotta say, I have these same thoughts all the time. For starters, we feel so blessed to have visited Ethiopia, and plan to return every few years. We didn't get to visit M's home town when we were there, so that is on the agenda for the next trip. (Next trip will be in 2-3 years for our second adoption). We also wish we knew M's family, and we are also waiting for him to ask the questions. I must admit I am trying to come up with answers in my head...

    I get so uncomfortable when people say M is lucky he has us. All we're giving him is two people to call parents. Every child has a right to that. In order for us to be his parents, he left his homeland, where people look like him and understand his history and heritage. He faced loss and grief and confusion. Parenting is not a right. It is a privilege and an honor. My little man is not a charity case; he's a blessing. And I'm not a savior; I'm just a Mom (and not even a great one).

    Anyhow, you said this all so well, and it really touched me. I don't think I'm expressing it nearly as well, but I really identified with this post. Thank you!

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  7. Love to hear your thoughts and how you are processing everything as you've been home. Your insight is greatly valued - thank you! When we are in country we want to soak it all in and be able to convey as much as possible to our little guy as he asks questions and wonders. We also hope to take him back so he can experience his birth country for himself.

    Those books you lent us are great - hard but an imperative part of what we should know as adoptive parents. The loss and grief that they go through is not something we can ever totally understand so must learn, read, talk, pray and rely on God to help us through those tranisitons is what we need to do.

    I'm going to get to those adoptee blogs this week as we got through our garage sale. It's a busy week but hope to get together sometime soon!

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  8. Great post!!!! I too have been thinking lately about all the loss in adoption......maybe because now I know who our son is and I can think more concretely about HIS particular loss and I am already starting to grieve the fact that I won't know his birth mother or anything about his earliest life. I always knew the loss was involved, but I didn't FEEL it until now. I imagine it only becomes more keenly felt as the years go on- especially as you see your child feeling the loss for the first time and then processing through it!

    I agree about adoption not being charity, but I do think there is a difference between adopting for charity and people knowing that God called them to adopt. We wanted to add to our family- God knew that because he knows our hearts, and God knew I think that we never would have really thoughts about adoption for no other reasons that it just was way off our radar screen so to speak. In His amazing providence, He turned our attention to adoption, and while we were fearful at times, we look back now and realize ALREADY what WE would be missing if not for our adoption journey. We never viewed it as charity (we've talked about this, so I know you know that), but I think sometimes people saying God called them to adoption can be perceived as charity or "doing something out of Christian duty" when really, it's just a matter of how the journey to our child started. Since then, it's ben all about bringing our child home and the blessing it is to our family to have the privilege of raising another beautiful child God created and God loves!!!

    I'm with you......I sure hope someone wouldn't adopt our of charity. That seems crazy to me, but I DO hope that people start asking God how HE would like their families to be built instead of assuming that He only intends to build our families biologically. I already really relate to your friend who said that a whole other world has opened up to her that she never knew before. I can't imagine how much more so I will feel this way once our son is home. I felt the same way when having my first child. I felt like I had entered a whole new dimension of life. And, I feel that way again, and WE truly are the ones that feel blessed.

    I'm also SO, SO uncomfortable when people say what a good thing we are doing and that we must be great people.......anyone have a great "stock" response I can give for that. I am usually rendered speechless when people say it then I end up saying something dumb or unclear. I need a ready answer when this happens. I just don't see it in those terms AT ALL, so it's hard for me to formulate a response.

    Anyway.....I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your honest post. I love transparent blog posts like this so much! They make me feel normal! :)

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  9. Oh for goodness sake.....I kept trying to post my comment, but Google kept telling me it was "too large" (I should have taken the hint, huh?) :). BUT....I never checked, I just kept trying to repost it.

    Oy, vey! Sorry about the 15 posts and subsequent deletions of same posts!!!

    But, I got a good lauhg out of it!! :)

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  10. Rachel,
    great thoughts. I totally agree that nobody should adopt out of a sense of duty. An adoption is not charity work; it should be as grave a commitment as marriage - a joyful and willing commitment made out of the desire to love someone for life. Thanks for your thoughts!

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  11. Thank you for sharing your heart. : )

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  12. Rachel, your heart is so amazing! I love sharing your story with people, it's so real. Thank you for sharing your feelings, it's nice to hear how the adoption process continues long after your home. {{HUGS}}

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