Transracial Adoption

Adoption: Why We Will Always Celebrate Our Son's Adoption Day

Words matter. I think they matter even more if you have experienced adoption. Phrases like “your real mom” or “your real child” are difficult to hear and yes-adopted families hear these often. For example, the phrase “Gotcha Day” has sparked a huge debate in the adoption community.

What is Gotcha Day?

"Gotcha Day" is a phrase that denotes the anniversary of the day on which a new member joins a family through adoption. It is sometimes also called “ Home Coming Day","Family Day", or "Adoption Day" – For many intercountry adoptive families, this day may differ from the actual adoption day. 'Gotcha Day' is often associated with annual rituals or celebrations.

Over that last few years, there has been a huge debate in the adoption community on whether we, adoptive parents, should celebrate our child’s adoption day. Karen Moline, author and the adoptive mother of a child born in Vietnam wrote “Get Rid of ‘Gotcha’” for Adoptive Families magazine in which she says: “Gotcha is my typical response when I’ve squashed a bug, caught a ball just before it would have rolled under the sofa, or managed to reach a roll of toilet paper on the top shelf at the store. It’s a silly, slangy word...I find the use of ‘gotcha’ to describe the act of adoption both astonishing and offensive.”

Our Decision

I have said it once; I'll say it again. Every adoption journey starts with a story of loss. This loss cannot be ignored or loved away.  This loss can be ambiguous for the adoptee especially if they were adopted as an infant. So here is the thing most people may miss about adoption. Adoption is not just a story of loss. It starts there but can grow and evolve into so much more. To our family adoption is both an act of love and loss.

In our home, we use “Adoption Day” as a day to honor our story. Our story is hard, full of loss and surprisingly beautiful.  However, many believe that no matter what name you use, Gotcha Day, Adoption Day, or Family Day it is a disingenuous day created by adoptive parents to celebrate their happiness while also possibly recognizing their child’s loss.  Some have even said that gotcha day is a narcissistic response to adoption by the adoptive parent.

3.2.2018 Celebrating our Adoption Day with cousins and granparents

3.2.2018 Celebrating our Adoption Day with cousins and granparents

Last night, in our family, we celebrated the twelth-year anniversary of the day my son’s adoption was finalized. As usual, it was low-key, quiet, and a generally private affair. As he has gotten older, he decides how he wants to spend this day and he always chooses to spend it with his family.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that the child I prayed for and eventually adopted would think that my honoring his joining of our family, all be it an unnatural process, would be a way for me to boast about his loss. Those who know our story and our love for our son know we would never do anything to hurt him intentionally.

Articles like The Insensitivity of Adoption Day Celebrations by Mirah Riben,  by the Huffington Post, challenged me. I began to think are my husband and I getting this all wrong? I decided to really go to the true experts on adoption and all things gotcha day…adopted kids. I took time to interview Jaden (12) and Ella (13) about their adoption journey and how celebrating their adoption has impacted their lives.

Meet the Kids

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Ella was adopted from Guatemala as an infant. She calls her adoption day “gotcha day.”One day, when driving through a rainstorm, she asked if it rained in Guatemala and the rest is history! Ella quickly learned that there is a great need for umbrellas in Guatemala, especially during the rainy season. Ella then created her Ella’s Umbrellas initiative. Those who received umbrellas shared that during the rainy season they don't have anything to cover their children with and the umbrellas reduce their children's chances and during the dry season it keeps mom’s to protect their children from the sun. Ella has donated over 750 umbrellas so far and hopes to send over 1,000 by the end of 2018.

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Jaden was adopted domestically from NC. Jaden calls his day “Adoption Day.” Many of you have read about our mini superhero on my blog. He has been featured in posts like “Adoption: A glimpse into the day our son was born” and “Where did you get that baby?” which paint a picture of some of the beautifully complex moments adoption has thrown at us.  His heart for people is evident in the way he loves his family. His insight on his own adoption experience is what has led me to share our story.  Jaden will be the first to tell you that when it comes to his adoption he has double-dipped feelings about it and that is totally ok. I took some time to ask Ella and Jaden the following questions.


Why do you like to celebrate your Gotcha Day / Adoption Day?

E: “ Because we celebrate that me, my mom, and dad all became a family.”

J: “ We celebrate it because it reminds us that our story is special.”

How is this day different from your birthday?

E: “Umm on my birthday we celebrate the day I was born, but on my Gotcha day we celebrate the day we became a family.”

J: “My birthday is cool because it's about celebrating my life. You know, the day I was born. Celebrating my adoption day celebrates my family. Its how we came to be.”

Why is it important that your adoption day is celebrated each year?

E: “It’s very important to me because we get to celebrate as a whole family and every year we make it a special time.“

J: “It reminds me that even though I sometimes get sad about my adoption it can also remind me that it’s a good thing too. I also like that on my adoption day my family takes the time to tell me my story.”


Adoption does start with loss but it doesn’t have to end there.  Over time it can become many layers to a complex journey. It's important that we as adoptive parents not only celebrate our child's journey into our family but also that we honor their story. No matter what word you choose to celebrate your child’s day, the important thing is to celebrate your child.

 

 

Adoption: A glimpse into the day our son was born

Like many adoption stories, ours begins with loss. After many trips to the fertility specialist and a major loss in March of 2005 it was evident that starting a family in the traditional sense was not going to be a viable option for us. Losing a pregnancy is a hard ambiguous loss. 

Do you want to be pregnant or be a mom?

Sitting in my bitterness I reached out to my mom. I remember in the middle of having a heartbreaking conversation with her she asked me the following. “Do you want to be pregnant or do you want to be a mom, because they are not the same thing?” Can you imagine how wild it was to hear those words from my own mother when I was in the middle of my career as an adoption social worker? If I’m being honest, adoption was always in my heart. 

Meeting our son’s birth mom was scary and exciting. Would she like us? Would she turn and run? The moment we met her we were all in. She was beautiful, caring, and committed to her decision. As time went on we became friends. Can you imagine that?

In the months leading up to his birth, we spent a great deal of time together. I accompanied her to medical appointments, developed a delivery plan, and discussed what interactions would look like after he was born. I felt so honored when she introduced the idea that I be in the delivery room with her. What sticks out the most was her desire to give our son (hers and mine) the life she never had.

In hindsight, I can say that we grew to love her before we even met him. Loving her was something I could not have anticipated and yet it was easy. You see, how could I not love the woman that gave me my son? Without her life and love I would not be a mother and the magnitude of her sacrifice is not lost on me.

One warm November morning she called early. Her water broke and contractions were strong. She wanted us to meet her at the hospital! My heart stopped. Everything moved very quickly after that. I remember getting in the car and thinking when we come back home we will be parents.

If I’m being honest, there was a fear that set in as well. What if after she met him she would decide not to place him with us? That’s when I remember God gently reminding me that he was in control no matter the outcome. In faith I stepped out.

We arrived and spent an hour staring at one another fueled with fear and anticipation. This is when I am reminded that adoption, in all its beauty, is not a natural process. Every adoption experience is different and I was standing in the middle of ours.

  • Our Moses Moment 

We sat with her, held her hand during the hard contractions and I quietly prayed for her and our son. After about 2 hours and her contractions settling down she encouraged us to go get some food in the cafeteria. We were sitting down to eat when the call came in. It was her nurse, “Get here now or you’ll miss it.”

I ran into the room and witnessed the moment my son entered this world. What an amazing, breathtaking moment God gave me.  He was perfect. He looked just like her. He was loved and I cut the cord.  Scripture tells the story of Moses an adopted child. The name Moses comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to pull out/draw out.” This was our Moses moment.

Daddy gives him his first bottle. 

Daddy gives him his first bottle. 

Was I the first to hold our handsome child? No. It was his Daddy. He was the first to hold and feed this new person that would come to change our lives forever. I believe becoming His father changed Heath forever. When evening set in Heath went home to get the house ready for our guy before he came back. That gave his two mom’s time alone.

He slept a while we talked about him. 

He slept a while we talked about him. 

Together,  in my room with him we both laughed, cried, and shared stories of our childhood. I tried to remember every detail of her story so that I could share it with him as he grew. This time together is forever etched in my soul.

When the time came to go home, she left first. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to walk away. I went to say goodbye, embrace her, and thank her for her sacrifice and love. We both knew this would not be the last time we would see each other for we are forever tied together.

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Adoption: Where Did You Get that Baby?

I will never forget the day we brought our son home from the hospital. He was small, pink, and perfect.  We were scared to death and overjoyed all at the same time. I remember the first time I felt like we finally hit a routine.  As many of you know, bringing an infant home from the hospital is no small task. I remember thinking “Why did I move away from home again? Away from all my family and away from all the help in the world.” After weeks of no sleep, and showers only when my husband got home from work, I finally felt like we had a routine. What our routine didn’t include was a whole lot of outside time!

-Our first family photo 2005-

-Our first family photo 2005-

This particular afternoon with stroller in hand we braved the cold in the small town we lived in. We took a small tour of our local neighborhood and at the end when we had nearly reached our driveway saw our elderly neighbor from across the street come outside. She was saying something which I didn’t quite make out. I asked her to say it again as I hadn’t heard her the first time. “Where did you get that baby?” she repeated, this time a bit louder so I could understand.

Where did you get that baby?

I could understand why she was curious. Having not been pregnant or discussed our adoption with anyone but close family and friends, and seeing me here and now with this little baby was a shock. As our conversation continued, I quickly realized she wasn’t curious but rather concerned. I graciously explained that we were in the process of adopting our handsome son, but her expression let me know she wasn’t comfortable with the situation at all. What happened next still gives me chills. As I walked down the road, she called her nephew, a police officer, to come and figure out where I “got” our baby.

Think about that for a minute. How did I feel when he approached me?  How could I feel? Humiliated. Here I was, a government employee having to explain to another government employee who my son was and a brief story of his adoption. Humiliating for both he and I. I wasn’t ready for that encounter or many others we have experienced over the last 12 years.  I share most of these stories and what I have learned from them during my speaking engagements because I think it’s necessary for other adoptive parents to hear that they’re not alone and that they can thrive. The first lesson I immediately learned after this event was this neighborhood would never fully embrace our family. That year we sold the house and moved to a great neighborhood with very accepting neighbors.

I was ill prepared to address the interactions that were surely to come.

This encounter taught me that I was ill prepared to address the interactions that were surely to come. Over the years I have learned valuable lessons about how to parent in a way that embraces and educates our community regarding our multiracial family and our adoption journey.  This is why I believe that parents that have adopted interracially need to understand that parenting your (adopted) child will require additional skills that you may not currently possess but that you can learn.

 

 

Multiracial Love: The "New" South

In a lot of ways my family represents the (new) South. We are interracial, in love, and doing life like everyone else in the South. We work, have a mortgage, and go to the town festivals. Our Sundays are spent at a multiracial church where two of our core values are loving people unconditionally and standing united. On Sunday mornings, our Church truly contradicts Martin Luther King’s thought that “ the most segregated time in America is Sunday mornings.” The south is more diverse and progressive than many may think. That is why as a born and bred New Yorker I chose to stay.

However, we don’t lose sight on the fact that it was just 47 years ago that our marriage was not just unheard of but forbidden in North Carolina. The amendment, outlawing interracial marriage, remained a part of the North Carolina Constitution until 1971. It still shocks me to know that 47 years ago our family would not be recognized as a family.

At times we do still experience racism in real tangible ways. For example, when my husband and I go out on date night, yes after 19 years I still date my handsome fella, we are given separate checks. Small I know, but it still has a huge impact. It doesn’t happen every once in a while, it happens every time. I’ll never forget the time my hubby went to a local pizza joint with our son and he was asked if he was our son’s “social worker.” Or how about the time my son was called a ‘nigger’ at summer camp by a 4-year-old. I could go on and on about the disrespectful way some have treated our family but when you are at the heart of changing the way people view families it will come with challenges.

It’s not always easy to have to explain to our son at such a young age that some may never like him because he is multiracial. Too many times we have been forced to have difficult conversations with him about why things are different for us.  So why stay?

Why Stay...

We stay because we see hope. Hope in our friends who are raising multiracial children in our area. Hope in churches like ours showing what it means to love one another deeply. Hope in our family that we are changing the narrative about what it means to be a multiracial family in the South. Hope in knowing that our family is a Southern family with strong values and love of all people. We are the new South and proud of it.

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Multiracial Families: Not Unicorns

I love to see multiracial families in my community. Growing up in NYC seeing a multiracial family is something I took for granted. Here in the south, it’s another story. Therefore, when I see others that look like us I am excited. I want to run up to them and hug them. Do worry, I don’t. I don’t stare or linger as many do when they see my little family but it warms my heart. It helps us feel not so alone on this journey.

Unicorn: a mythical animal typically represented as a horse with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead.
— Webster Dictionary

Seeing other multiracial families solidifies my thought that we are not unicorns. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Twilight Sparkle as much as the next fairy princess!  However, seeing other multiracial families in the South forces a new conversation.  A new narrative if you will. 

The new narrative is one that shows the world that multiracial families are strong and full of love. That we are thriving and happy and that its ok.  One in which multiracial marriages are not fetishsized but rather welcomed into the fold. Staring at us while we are eating dinner or shopping at target only makes you look ignorant and makes or family feel isolated. We are not mystical beings, we are flesh and bone just like you. 

I want people to know that yes I am Afro-Latina, my husband is white, and we are raising our multiracial (adopted) son in a small farming town in North Carolina with the same hopes and dreams that they have for their families. Like many families in America, we want our son to grow up with a strong sense of family and hope our relationship provides him with a model for what a healthy, loving, partnership looks like. Like any family, we celebrate the ups and work through the downs together. Like all families in America, we are not unicorns.

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Like many families in America, we want our son to grow up with a strong sense of family