The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Friday, April 12, 2013

Adoption Truth Part II: Where do babies come from?

Ariam likes to talk about where babies come from. Specific questions have included "is the belly button like an exit door?" and  "how does the baby get in there?"

She does a lot of thinking about babies. How they get in there, where they were before they were in there, and what they like to do in a uterus. She is 3. Sometimes she pulls down her shirt and pretends to breastfeed. She says she plans to be a baby doctor. She believes this means she will have a lot of babies and play doctor on them.

Not having ever carried or delivered a baby myself our conversations are usual very theoretical. If I'm being entirely honest, Ariam probably knows more anatomical names for lady parts and baby birthing than I do.

Until this happened recently...

This brave first time mama let me be a part of her 3 hour labor and delivery.

After delivery she struggled with bleeding. I was scared. I am sure she was scared. But she came through it and is doing okay. Raising her sweet boy.

This entire experience made me think.

Maybe, along with our adoption training, every adoptive parent should be required to attend a real life labor and delivery. Complete with pushing and vomit and tears and sweat. The ring of fire and tearing. Placenta and umbilical cord and more tears. Relief and more relief when the baby finally proves he won't be staying inside forever.

A new perspective:

Look at the strength it takes to bring forth life.
Look at the power of the female body and mind.
Look at the love and connection that rushes through those first few minutes - mother still connected to baby through their umbilical cord. (I had no idea what that would look like!)

I have been filled with a sense of awe ever since. It was so redemptive to see a mother struggle through delivery and to know that she will be supported and cared for as she learns how to mother for the first time.

Where do babies come from? Every baby comes from his or her mother. They are not created out of thin air. They are brought into this world in a flood of blood and pain and joy and sometimes sorrow. But they do not appear magically and they are not created in a womb as a mechanism to supply children for adoption.

I knew this logically and rationally. And I know you do too. But our hearts and our actions need to reflect this. All choices made around a child's care and future needs to reflect this reality.

My important adoption truth - babies come from mothers.

Thanks for taking this journey into the truth with me. Your supportive comments and privately shared stories meant a lot yesterday. I have never clicked refresh on my inbox that many times in one day.

~ A

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adoption Truth Part I: I have changed

Thanks for joining my recap of 2012. It was necessary for me to post. A reminder that in the dark and hard places of our life there is also light and beauty and so much love.

And now, to start the story. I need to ask for your grace. This blog is about to get a lot less rainbows and unicorns and pretty photos. I am not perfect and certainly don't have all the answers. What I have to share is deeply personal and it scares me to put it all out here in this way. Please be gentle with me. And with yourself. More than anything I am aware that adoptive parents read this blog and that words have a powerful way of touching places in our lives that we didn't want to disturb or consider too closely.

Thank you for coming back after I've been gone so long. Thank you for caring.

Part I

I am not the same woman I was when this blog was born. Our adoption of Ariam has deeply impacted and forever changed the way I see the world. Reading my blog from inception to present, in preparation for reopening it, was so eye opening.

The most significant change I see is in my perception of the adoption triad (in our case, to keep it simple)– birthmother, adoptive mother, daughter. Daughter to two mothers. Mothers sharing daughter. Across time, space and beyond all comprehension, we are sharing.

We became parents to the most amazing, fantastic, joyful, loving, funny, animated little girl on planet earth in June of 2010.

And at least once each week I look at this little girl of mine and think about the girl who gave her life.

And Ariam asks about that girl-woman regularly. We talk about how we’ve heard that her nose was so similar to Ariam’s. How she also had light coffee colored skin. We talk about how sparkly her eyes must have been. I am deeply moved by this woman who connects us and I know that Ariam is as well.

We searched for her and that search turned upside down everything I thought previously about adoption. It is very clear to us that adoption was not Ariam’s birthmother’s plan. It has ended up as Ariam’s best second option. But it was not predestined, it was not “meant to be” and it most definitely damaged an inherent human right. The right her mother should have had to be involved in decision making about her daughter’s care. 

I am going to share something here that has forever damaged something in my soul and for which I hope Ariam forgives me someday for sharing. Because it will change you too. And you need to hear this before I can move on to part II of our story.

We learned that when Ariam’s girl-woman birthmother learned she was gone from the place she had entrusted her and gone from Ethiopia. She lay on the floor and cried. She cried for ‘days’.  

that is not ok. That image of her haunts me. It will not be ok with Ariam. It is not acceptable in our book and we don't think it is in God's plan for his creation. It was the consequence of a choice her birthmother made. But it was not the logical linear consequence. It was not a consequence that would have occurred if the local orphanage had taken the time to investigate. In the same situation, it was not a consequence I would have had to pay for a youthful mistake. And it was a harsh penalty a young woman paid for some poor decisions - made with very few alternative options.

I am changed. I am humbled. I am seared to the core. And I can never go back and be the same person I used to be. She can never be the same person she was growing to be.

As for Ariam. She doesn't know all of this story yet. So we won’t share more here. But she is a deeply thoughtful, caring, and empathetic little girl. She is the girl who rubs her friends’ backs at preschool when they are sad. She is the one who tells me she will hold her little brother to her heart when he is scared. She is the one full of love, hope and trust. She writes us love letters and brings them home from preschool daily.

Someday her heart will break when she learns her complete story. How could it not? 

This experience has shaped our family. It has shaped the way we view adoption. It has profoundly impacted our view of birth families and our appreciation for the difficult choices they make. And the ridiculously unfair and unjust "options" available (or forced) upon them.

We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt based on our experience, that orphanages can create “orphans” and that adoption can create orphanages. And if neither existed many children would remain in some form of family care either with their parents or extended family.

And yet we also know that, without adoption as an option on the spectrum of care, many children would grow up alone, in institutions, without a family.

HOW to reconcile these two?

We are complicit in this system. A system that provides families for some children who are very much in need and that creates “orphans” out of others who have living, caring, and with some support entirely capable birthparents.

We are complicit because we want to be a family. We want to be parents. We want to bring Ariam’s little brother home from Haiti. As adoptive parents, it is incredibly hard to overrule wants/emotions with sense, logic, justice, big picture thinking. I know it is excruciatingly hard because I live this.

Let’s start here. Let’s start this blog over with the premise that we have arrived at the awareness of this tangled complexity. And that we have come to some conclusions based on our ongoing experience with adoption. 

We as a family are awakened to the knowledge that we are complicit in a system that does not always serve those who most need it.
We have been complicit. But no more.  
Done with the group think.
Done with feeling emotionally held hostage.
Done thinking of our wants and needs and placing the highest priority on those.
Done turning a blind eye to red flags.
Done stepping on egg shells with agencies and their leadership.
Done worrying about the public opinion of other adoptive parents. 

We are in no way “anti-adoption” but we are fully awake to the fraud, injustice, and perpetuated cruelties of the “system.”

On February 26, 2013, with final adoption decree in hand, we removed our son from the agency and orphanage that had been overseeing his care in Haiti. Putting our own adoption (our ability to get a US visa to bring him home) on the line and in jeopardy for the sake of the truth. 

I began this blog by wanting to add something to the story. When it seemed our adoption in Haiti could be on the line and we had to make some big choices, I was too scared to continue writing.

But no more.
For Ariam. For AJ.  I love you both. This work is my gift to you – your past present and future. This is our new beginning at the Watershed.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Year, Fresh Start

You know its been a while when...

you have to type in your entire blog URL because your new computer (the one you bought months ago) doesn't automatically start to load it with the first few words

you can't remember your blogger id or password

you can't even remember how to start a new post!

Today is day 1 of a new year. January 1, 2013.

Last night I held Ariam close and looked in her eyes telling her that she made 2012 the best year of our lives. She laughed. And maybe it was a bit dramatic. But it was true. Through the ups and downs, Ariam brings a light, a fire, a sparkle and a huge sense of happiness, peace and optimism to our home.

So that we won't forget, here are the biggies of 2012:

- Both of us changed jobs early in 2012. I left a job I had been working on for the past five years and began a new long-term consultancy. J settled into his life as a college professor and has never been happier.

Who we pretend to be...

Who we really are...
- At the end of March we traveled to Haiti for a week during J's spring break to meet our son, "Mr. Dimple." It was a very special time with a special baby.

- Travel. We did some. It wasn't up to our pre-parenting level of fun, relaxation or adventure. But it was memorable:

I took Ariam to California in May. (I was facilitator for a workshop at the Christian Alliance for Orphan Summit.)

Aya and Papa (my parents) joined us

We reunited with friends from Ethiopia!

Our small Ethiopia friends taught us to run naked on the beach (this was right before she stripped)!

We had a mommy/daughter beach day and made precious memories.

Ariam received and lost at least 4 pairs of sunglasses in the summer of 2012

J flew home in July to the small city he grew up in on the West Coast. It was an unplanned trip. He was back in his hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Alex. Alex's death was so sudden, so unexpected. It marks the heartbreaking mid-point of our 2012. We miss him every day.

Our best man.
J, Ariam and I went to Minnesota for a week in late summer to see old friends. It was supposed to be a girl's only trip but after Alex's death we decided not to miss opportunities to be together as a family and to see the people we love in person.

Met and fell in love here.
In late summer we celebrated baby brother's first birthday with cupcakes and a song. Ariam added to the growing stack of presents, cards and other artwork she is diligently creating for his arrival home.

Grandpa Jack made Ariam this awesome go cart. She spent late summer/early fall riding it as often as possible.

Gordon the preschool class mascot spent a weekend with us!
I went to London for work and spent a weekend with a dear friend in York. Prayed for miracles at Yorkminster Cathedral. We giggled our evenings away and walked/shopped with diligence during the day.

Was pampered, cocooned and completely loved and taken care of (and laughed until my stomach hurt and I couldn't walk) with this old friend and her hubby in Royal Tunbridge Wells.

Friendship that has taken us from  flip flops and stray dogs in rural Thailand to high heels and scones in England.
The fall was filled with pumpkins and trick or treating and sunshine.

I wish I could freeze them this way/this moment in time forever.

A light up princess crown from England (from Jackie and Ollie) was just the perfect accessory.
We drove to Santa Fe for a beautiful last warm fall weekend in early November.

Our solace. Our place of peace and escape. Closer to nature and closer to God.
Spent Thanksgiving in a small mountain town with wonderful friends and kids who plan to marry and make us beautiful babies. ;)

 - We ended 2012 the way we began it, with an epic 16 hour, 2 dogs, one restless preschooler, road trip to stay with family in Texas. This year it was much improved by the spacious used minivan we were rocking and the wonders of the ipad.


And now I am watching the Rose Bowl parade. Specifically the part where a man coming home from overseas military duty surprises his wife and child on the parade route. My tears dripping on the keyboard.

I think it's safe to say that 2012 has made me hold what I have closer than ever while at the same time reminding me that our human earthly lives are so incredibly fragile and fleeting.

As a family, we have 2 goals for 2013.

1. Be even more diligent about making memories together and spending time with the people we love.

2. Bring home baby brother from Haiti. This girl of ours is so ready to be a big sister.

~ A