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.