Adoption Story

Striding: Finding Your Joy in the Noes of Life

"Return home and tell how much God has done for you…" Luke 8:39 (NIV)

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Do you have a story? I'm pretty sure we all do. Does your story have value? Absolutely. Can your story influence others? Without a doubt. So why is it that we are often reluctant to share the hard moments of our lives with others? I think sometimes it’s because those hard times are often reminders of the firm noes we have experienced in our lives. I wonder if we have come to the point where we find joy in the noes of life.

I’m often asked why I finally decided to go live with my intimate life stories about loss, adoption, infertility, and our multiracial family experiences. It wasn’t an easy decision. I remember nights discussing with my husband about how this might impact our family. Ultimately, we made the right decision.  I think it’s because the hard moments in our life taught me the biggest lessons of my life. I’d like to think that when I share the grief I experienced with infertility that it will help another couple heal. I hope that when I talk about the hardships interracial families experience today that other families don’t feel so alone.

Many of the noes have been hard. A great example of this is when I applied for a job I really, wanted. Our son was young, and I knew that the job would not only advance my career but also give me time at home to be with him. I didn't get the job. I wasn't the first choice as I had hoped. I was second. Second didn't win me a prize. When the firm no came my way, I was crushed. What I didn’t know is that six years later I would oversee that position, unit, and team. Like many others, the joy came later.

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Our miscarriage was probably the most bitter NO of my life. We had sacrificed so much time, money, and energy with fertility doctors only to get a firm, bitter no. That no cost me my health, requiring surgery and our emotional wellbeing. That no was bitter. To rub salt in my wound my closest friends were pregnant at the same time I was. We were supposed to raise our children together. Our miscarriage happened right around Mother’s Day. I was at my lowest. What I didn’t know was that the way we would grow our family would be through adoption and not by birth. Meeting our son's birthmother that same year and witnessing the birth of our son the same month (and year) our birth child would have been born was nothing I could have ever envisioned. God knew that I would be a mother before my pregnant besties. I didn’t.  Today, I am a mother because I got a firm NO.  The heartbreak and pain didn't determine our future. Yet another firm no that lead to the greatest joy of my life.

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The noes of life can break your heart. For me, my twenties was a time where I experienced tough noes from God. At the time those noes broke my heart. Have you ever felt like that?  In the past, I could barely talk about those noes without crying. Recently, my Alma Mater, Nyack College interviewed me for a piece they were writing about my work in adoption

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That interview reminded me of those noes. It also gave me time to reflect on all the yeses I stepped into. I think that is why I love being a seasoned 40 something. I’ve lived long enough to see how those firm noes lead to the yeses of my life later.  I can honestly say I am joyful for every no because it lead me here. To me, the world will not change until we get real with ourselves about the pain, rejection, and losses we have experienced. It’s in those hard times that we truly understand our humanity. That we are all the same.

Finally, to answer the question; Why do I share my stories?  I share them because they shaped me, and I hope they will help others in similar situations. I have learned that God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a great purpose and a beautiful future for all. Not despite our past, but because of it.

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Living Openness in Adoption: How Relocation Changes Everything.

The embrace 5.6.2018

The embrace 5.6.2018

When we finally decided we were going to move I went on a mission to ensure our son got to spend time with those that matter to him most. We knew that saying goodbye to his friends, family and even teachers would be hard, but how do you prepare your child to say goodbye to his parent of origin?

Adoption is real. It’s hard and it’s beautiful. If you think about it adopted kids have been saying goodbye to loved ones since before they could remember. At least for our little man it was like this from the moment he caught his first breath.

Experts Say...

copyright April Dinwoodie (website)

copyright April Dinwoodie (website)

This month I had the honor of hearing April Dinwoodie, adult adoptee and advocate, speak to a room of adoption professionals about the need for openness in adoption. April encouraged that adoption is a human rights issue and not a one-time transaction. She described adoption as a life long journey. April boldly shared that children are not commodities. This phrasing brought it all home for me. I remember thinking " He's not just our family."

April noted that best practice recommendations support children’s basic human right to connect with and have information about their biological roots. This is why we have been so intentional to ensure that our son have information about his family of origin. However, having information was not enough he needed connection as well. This is where adoptive parents can put their love in action. If it is safe, I am a firm believer that connection with biological family is critical to adopted children. 

As we stride into the next chapter for our family, it means saying goodbye to loved ones. When you have an adopted child it may mean saying goodbye to a biological parent they barely know. It may be awkward but so necessary. So we planned and last Sunday he spent time with her. The woman who carried him, has his same eyes. 

He hugged her tight and held her hand. He asked me to take pictures. We took lots of them. He got to play with his baby cousin and met his uncle and aunt for the very first time. At that moment we realized the magnitude of this moment. His two families sharing a moment with him.

This visit was different from all the rest because for the first time he met his extended family. It was magical. He played and laughed with them, gave hugs and even asked to visit again before we take off to our new life and home.

 

Family is our center of gravity
— April Dinwoodie

I have discussed with him that moving away doesn’t make her any less his family. People often ask us how we do it? How are we ok with having him spend time with her as if love or the concept of family is confined to just us. We like to think of it, as there is enough love for all of us. Our conversation with her is about a promise we made to her over 12 years ago. It was a promise to give him a full, happy life and how this move is part of that promise.

We are family 5.6.18

We are family 5.6.18

Changes in Communication

This isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of a new way to stay in contact. How will we modify our communication? We have decided to set up a private Facebook page for both families to connect and exchange photos. In addition, we will be intentional about visiting often. I hope our little man learns that in his life he will sometimes have to say goodbye to people he loves deeply, but although those goodbyes will be painful, it doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t worth the pain.

Adoptive parents we owe it to our children to find ways to honor their parents and families of origin. Connection is a way to honor their relationships.

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.