“I was so afraid of being seen as imperfect. What happens to imperfect things? They get sent back…”
The above words were my reference of thought for much of my childhood life: you better be perfect or you might get sent back to foster care. I can recall, as a little girl, the panic I felt each time my adoptive mother would leave the house. I was certain that my foster care giver, in England, would come to America to get me while mom was away. Mom would surely have learned what I already knew — that I wasn’t her perfect girl — and I’d be returned to the place from where I came.
Let me introduce you to my children: Christian is the eldest, and on the left hand side of this photo; Eviana is in the middle; and Ian is on the right. Eviana and Ian were both delivered into my life via international adoption. Eviana is from Ethiopia. Ian is from Russia.
We are a family representing diverse cultures and colors. I believe it is from this place of diversity where we have birthed a deep and unwavering commitment to inclusion.
I am aware that there are varying opinions in this world about families like mine; opinions that range from support to shock…even outrage. It seems that difference can alarm, agitate, inflame, upset and unhinge some. We fear what we do not understand. Our differences, though, should never divide us. Yet, we know throughout human history that difference has shown the capability to separate. Today, it still possesses the same capacity to tear apart.
My husband and I were in our early thirties, ecstatically married, in love with our life, and very aware of the many ways it would be turned upside down if we had kids. So we debated it. A lot. I’ll spare you that part of the story, but suffice it to say it was a fraught and lengthy process. In contrast, the decision to adopt was nearly instantaneous. We spent years deciding whether or not to have children. We decided to adopt literally in the next breath. We wanted to be parents, and we knew there were lots of kids out there who needed parents, and so instead of making a new one, we decided to have one of those. It seemed like a good match.
The beginning is the most important part of the work. ~Plato
Could there be anything more daunting than staring at a blank canvas, or a blank computer screen? It’s always the first stroke, or the first word that seems so difficult to release.
At the same time, could there be anything more exciting than contemplating the potential that a blank canvas holds? The moment when you anticipate all the possibilities about to unfold. Indeed, as Paul Cezanne once put it, “It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas.”
I’ve struggled to understand love pretty much my entire life. I think it all stems from the strange juxtaposition that many adoptees are introduced to when we’re told about our adoption or when people comment on it. The juxtaposition goes something like this, “Your biological parents loved you so much, they gave you to someone else who could take better care of you.”
My son will be thirteen-years old, this August. He was delivered into our family via adoption, from Russia. When we brought him home, he was just eleven-months old. Over the years, he’s not been one to speak much about being an adoptee; he’s somewhat quiet regarding the topic.
As an international adoptee myself, I don’t press the matter. My son knows that we carry an open-door policy on the matter of adoption discussion. In other words, there’s never a bad time to ask a question, and there’s never a bad question to ask. As his mother, I want my son to know that he is safe to explore his feelings and emotions with his family. I want him to understand that, in our home, transparency is held as top priority. It’s important for my son to feel safe as he enters into his teen years: safe to discuss his adoption story, openly and honestly.
I’m a mother to a beautiful child. She’s everything I had always hoped she would be, and more. My love for her is rich and deep and unconditional. I cherish our family vacations and visits to the park, and I especially enjoy watching my daughter dance. But, it wasn’t always that way. I was once an empty, heartbroken young woman who had lost two babies to miscarriage. Back then, I feared I would never become a mom. Adoption changed that, and even more importantly, it taught me a thing or two about love. Here is what I have learned:
Difficult to place.
These are the three words that social workers used to describe me while in the care of the United Kingdom’s foster care system. In other words, these three little words equaled one giant judgement about my worth. The social worker assigned to my case believed that finding a family for a child like me would be, yes, difficult.
I was seen as “illegitimate” and “ethnic” within the system. My foster papers described me as the “extra-marital daughter” of a woman who indulged in an affair with a “dark man.” Adding, “The child is dark, like her father.”
“It’s not safe”. I think that is what I would tell you if you were looking to foster or adopt. I’m not sure that this would be a good slogan for an adoption agency, but after walking this path, I’d think a warning is in order.
I would want to tell you that if you choose this path, you will never be the same. You will no longer look at the orphan crisis as a statistic, you will suddenly look at it as a thumb sucking, 1 year old in a diaper and onesie plopped into your lap at 11 pm at night. Eyes wide and filled with fear, you and this tiny ‘orphan crisis’ will face this storm together. Suddenly, it all takes on a name and a dirt-smudged face.
As a former foster child, as well as an international adoptee, I’m often asked about my nationality. In other words, people are curious as to where I originated, what my heritage is and to whom I once belonged.
Believe me, I have been — in my lifetime — ultra curious about these things, as well. In fact, the journey of discovery has taken me along paths to unknown destinations, and to unknown parts of myself.
The experience of seeking out adoption truth is like putting together a puzzle with vital pieces missing. Empty holes. Empty spaces. Those hollow places in the heart; caverns created by loss.
How much are we willing to sacrifice in an effort to put back the pieces of a shattered-self? What are we willing to risk? How can we revive the dormant parts of who we once were, as adoptees, prior to being removed from our first lives?