Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adoption: getting started

Are you considering adoption as a way to create a family? How did you come to chose adoption as an option to creating a family?
I have known many couples and individuals who have chosen adoption as a way to create a family. How to get started on this journey? The first step is to make the decision to adopt.  This is not always the easiest thing to do if you are still hoping to have your own biological child,  or you have a limited amount of money to pursue the goal of having children. So this is a good place to start and get clear within yourself first and then within the couple (if you have a partner with whom you are wanting to create family). I always say to couples that you are single,  until you have children!
The practical piece of becoming  a parent and  actually being a parent, providing for the emotional and physical  needs of a child,  becomes a very conscious intentional process when you choose to adopt. By clarifying your own needs and motivations to become a parent right at the beginning of the adoption process, by yourself, with your partner, or with the help of a professional therapist, can help clear the way for you to have a positive experience in adopting your child.  

So, here are a few things to consider right at the start, to clear the way for a successful process to adopt:

  • Be intentional in what you would like to happen. Plan and put action to your dreams.
  • Be practical about becoming a parent. Know in your heart and mind and bank account that this is what you want to do!
  • Delegate financial resources to the process of creating a family.
  • Put a time limit on IVF and infertility treatments. Try to follow one path at a time.
  • Don't wait to get the facts. Understand the rules and become informed.  ie. If you are older parents to be, then gain understanding on age restrictions that may impact your choices  ie. Research and plan for any age limit considerations in adoption process (International adoption / single parent adoption/domestic) Also, Some adoptions can take anywhere between 1-3 years, so allow for this time period in becoming parents.
  • Clear the way and clarify your own needs and motivations to be a parent.
  • Honestly evaluate your own emotional/ physical abilities; energy level; do you have the capacity  to be 'selfless' at times? Do you know your limits?
  • If you are in a partnership have a conversation about  parenting. What would it be like? Will parenting tasks be shared?  Are you both on the same page with adopting? What do you see as changing in your partnership? What do you want to preserve about the partnership? ie. date nights/adult time.
Becoming a parent through adoption is a unique and amazing journey and needs to be chosen consciously. The support of a  knowledgeable professional or group of parents to be, can be  useful in your information gathering and also in giving you encouragement in this journey in creating family.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sense of belonging in America (4)

I find that every day there are interactions that occur that present opportunities to educate people about adoption and there are also times when I am taken by surprise by how intrusive and plain offensive perfect strangers can be in their comments.  These times call for limit setting and sometimes they are so breath-taking that you just walk away and move on.  We can prepare our adopted children the best we can by modeling when to educate and when to ignore comments from strangers about adoption. Sometimes, our children show us that they are more prepared than their parents in dealing with such comments!

 Last week my daughter had an appointment at the local post office to renew her passport.  I realized that I was a little anxious, and reflected on the fact that my own experiences of becoming American and dealing with immigration and getting my own passport had not always been pleasant. I took some relaxing breaths.  

Everything seemed straight forward, This was my daughter's 3rd American passport! I had made sure that the correct forms had been filled out and signed; photo taken, yep everything was going well,  and then I heard this 'Official Gatekeeper to a new passport' who happened to be American/Chinese say:
"You chose her? You did not choose her? They just give you a baby"
Then she kept going on and on about how lucky my daughter was to be adopted, and how it would have been if she stayed in China,  not once, but three times!  I had stopped breathing! I was totally dumbfounded! I was thinking how dare you be so intrusive!  I then placated her and explained to her the process of adoption (which I had already told my daughter).  All the time I was thinking how grateful I was that my daughter was now old enough to integrate and understand the reality and meaning of her own adoption around 'being chosen' (which is at times a romanticized view we read in books) by her adopted parent. 

The telling of the story of your child's adoption is paced according to the developmental process and the questions your child asks you on the way to the library or in the car on the way to school. Over time the story is told differently with more detail and information.  It is YOUR story - you and your child create the meaning of the adoption together - it  is not meant to be  forced upon your child by a perfect stranger!

And Being adopted and being an adoptive parent can be messy at times. Your adoption story, is both deeply personal and at the same time factual and statistical. Often, the messiest times present themselves as a test to the parent and their readiness to tell the truth!  In so saying, it is amazing how adopted children, when they are young, can easily internalize the mis-perceptions and negative opinions and assumptions  about adoption from strangers, if the parent is not open to talking about their adoption story in a transparent way with all the necessary facts.  An example of this would be when a friend of my daughter whom had been adopted asked her "how much did your mother pay for you?" My daughter was very surprised by the question and then gently informed her friend of what she knew about the process. Unlike her friend, my daughter was aware that money is involved in the process of adoption and she also knows that she was not  a commodity to be bought.

We  finally got  out of the post office and my daughter  immediately started saying that " the woman  was weird and intrusive and  had no business talking about her adoption and our personal life". My sentiments exactly and I wish I had said that!  

As a parent was I ready to tell the truth? I would say yes and some of our adoption story is deeply personal and belongs only to me and my daughter.