Friday, January 28, 2011

Why transracial adoption?

     When I first shared with my sister-in-law and brother (who have already been through the adoption process and now have the sweetest almost one year old son that you can even begin to imagine) that Stu and I had decided to pursue adoption----Nikki told me--"Once you decide to adopt---you then become an expectant mother."  Those words jarred something inside me---and I realized that she was right.   Somehow---through the grace of God---we had moved away from the desperation and pain of desiring for God to mold his plans to ours---and we had found the peace and the joy of molding our plans to his.  And we were expecting a child----how foolish had we ever been to think that accepting God's plan in lieu of our own would somehow be anything less than complete.  I will always be grateful to Nikki for those words----because they expressed recognition of a change in Stuart and in myself that wasn't visible to the eyes---but was nonetheless real and life-altering.  We became expectant parents that day in November.
      Part of the reason that I'm trying to write this blog is because I want a record of this time of anticipation---this time of joy, celebration, and preparation.   It also helps me to sort through some of the conflicting thoughts and feelings that I run into as our adoption process progresses.  Stuart and I are now in the middle of describing every aspect of our life in the "self-study" worksheets we've been given to complete.  We've written about our childhood, our families, our marriage, our past significant relationships, and our views on child-rearing and adoption.  And now we're in the section in which they ask all kinds of questions about transracial adoption:  "Have you ever considered adopting transracially?"  and "How will you help your child develop a positive racial identity?"  "How do you think your child will feel about being adopted transracially?"  For those who may not know---Stuart and I had already decided that we were open to transracial adoption before we ever went to our first informational meeting.       But it can be a little difficult to describe why we feel that way.  I think that, in part, we have been affected deeply by the addition of Joshua---my nephew--- to our family.   If I had ever had even one iota of doubt that a family could be a family whether everyone "matched" or not---well it would have been obliterated the moment I met Joshua.  As it was, I remember asking Stuart one morning as we were getting ready for work,  "If we ever adopted---would it be important to you for the child to be the same race as you?"  (As you may have guessed, this conversation was a reaction to Jacob and Nikki announcing that they were pursuing a transracial adoption.  The idea of checking off races deemed acceptable to one's family on the adoption questionnaire had never surfaced before since we hadn't come to a place where adoption felt right to us at that particular time.)  And Stuart said,  "No, I don't think so."  And I agreed.   That was probably a year before we ever met Joshua---and I suppose since we weren't seriously considering adoption at that time---those were just pat answers that didn't signify anything real or tangible to us as a couple.  And those pat answers really weren't as simple as we believed when we first discussed the issue.  Sure---we're fine with having a child of a different race as a part of our family---no question.  Later---when adoption became something real to us---Stu and I would begin to realize that the real question was whether or not a child would be fine with being adopted into a family of a different race.   Early lessons in the "Hey genius---it's no longer all about you--"school of parenting.
     Google search "adult transracial adoptee blogs" and you're going to read some pretty negative stuff.  There are a lot of angry people out there---people angry with their adoptive parents for not believing them when they were confronted with bias or prejudice---people angry that their adoptive parents didn't make enough of an effort to introduce them to people who shared their heritage/ethnicity---people angry that their adoptive parents made them feel guilty when they became curious about their birth parents---people angry when others felt entitled to tell them how they should feel....  Read "In Their Own Voices"  in which adult transracial adoptees tell their stories---and you're going to read about a spectrum of experiences----some people say---they never really formed an identity---and to this day, they don't really feel like they know who they are.  Some people describe themselves as being "too black to be white"  and "too white to be black."---meaning that they never felt that they could fit into either the black or the white community.  Others describe it as a very positive experience---saying that they feel that they are a bridge between the white and black communities---that they feel they have a foot in both worlds---and that they are a better, more enriched person for it.  Some people have very negative experiences from which they never really recovered;  some viewed negative experiences as something which--though hurtful and disheartening at the time of their impact---- made them stronger in the long run.  One quickly realizes that when considering transracial adoption----there is turbulence beneath those first, surface judgements---and that in the end-----an easy answer is just not at hand.
     The more you read about/hear about other people's experiences---the more you realize that we do indeed live in a race conscious society.  Racism exists---and though it would be nice to say that now that we have a biracial president---the times of racism are past.....obviously they aren't.   Look at the bomb that was planted along the route of a Martin Luther King parade in Washington---look at the racial slurs that are hurled without abandon across the internet---really just look around---and you can feel the ugly overtones of racism in more situations than any of us would really care to admit.  We are very far from the paradise this world began as....  And there are times that I stop and mourn the damage that sin and hate have wrought on this world----which seems to find endless ways to divide and separate its people.  I think---at my most idealistic---I could say that I don't want to be one more separating force---I want a family that looks like the family of God---with no regard for skin color---and much regard for the inclinations of our hearts.    But I think that answer relies too heavily on the assumption that love is enough.  In a perfect world it would be---in the world we live in---I think love is just the beginning..... At its most basic---the truth of the matter remains as this:  Stu and I just really want a baby---and we don't want to reject a baby that needs a home just because he/she might be of a different race/ethnicity than ourselves.  There are other boxes that we will leave unchecked on our adoption form----there are other babies who need homes that we will never meet because of those unchecked boxes.  There are babies who have needs that we aren't sure we're equipped to meet-----but when it comes to the needs unique to the transracially adopted child----for some reason---that is hopefully not completely misguided-----we aren't fazed---and we believe that, with a little help along the way, we can meet those needs.
     Sometimes I look at our family---the struggles we've faced---the ramifications of those struggles we've embraced and loved with our whole hearts---and I think that God has prepared us for this very thing.   And everything inside us is yearning to raise a child who truly understands that we are who we choose to be--we are not what others label us as---nor are we what others might wish us to be---that every single one of us leads a purpose driven life-----it is merely a choice as to what purpose---one of goodness or of wickedness--- that we claim for ourselves---- a child who understands that God made him and that he made him in his own image----and that when some ignorant person tries to tell him that he is something less because of the color of his skin-----he should remind that person that some day we are all going to meet our maker---and if one doesn't discount what the Bible tells us about that whole "created in His own image" bit----that maker could very well be a man with ebony colored skin.....a child who understands that we are defined by love---and diminished by hate.  We so badly want our child to understand these things more and sooner than we did.  And our greatest fears when it comes to transracial adoption or adoption in general lie in our own inadequacies and shortcomings. To raise a child to believe that the world is "colorblind" would be unfair since racism does exist and is a disturbing reality---and it is scary to think that we---as caucasian parents--- will not always have all the answers when it comes to the best ways to deal with it----- we truly are going to have to ascribe ourselves to the adage that "It takes a village...."
     We live our lives in an imperfect, fallen world----but it is not a world where God doesn't still isn't a world without pockets of kindness, love, grace, isn't a maze of thorns that we are left to navigate without aid or direction-----the God of our fathers is One who not only gives us guidance in our journey---He goes one notch further than that----as He walks it alongside us.  
    These are the things I think about when I read the questions about transracial adoption.   Have you ever considered adopting transracially?  Yes.  How will you help your child develop a positive racial identity?  Find a diverse church....get involved in it.....teach my child that God made him in his own image as he made all of us---and that each of us has the chance to be a child of God...rely on the advice of friends who have more experience than I do when my family---my family composed of relatives as well as my family composed of friends----to be a safe haven in an unfair, imperfect world....make sure my child is aware of real life heroes that share his ethnic heritage......and hope all that is enough.....or maybe just a start........I don't think that Stu and I are self-deluded enough to believe that we know everything---and as excited as we are----there's a part of us that is terrified that we're going to make some horrible mistake.  Actually, the horrible mistake part is probably inevitable.  From what I understand---it's pretty much a rite of passage into the land of parenting.  And I guess that thought leads into the last question---How do you think your child will feel about being transracially adopted?  I suppose the answer to that depends on how well we implement the answers described in the previous question, doesn't it?  Here's hoping that with the prayers and support of our friends and family---with a conscious effort to develop that positive racial identity---and with the help of God----he's going to feel good about it.  I'm sure there will be times when he is sad----from what I've read and studied---it seems that many adoptees (same race adoptees and transracial adoptees alike) feel a tremendous sense of loss.  I hate to think of our child feeling this way----and I only hope that we're strong enough to walk through the loss with him.  God does it for us---he doesn't just stand back from afar and intone pearls of wisdom in serious, yet emotionless cadences.....He goes there with us.  The times in my life when I've felt the most afraid---the times that I've been in the most pain---physical or otherwise---those are the times that I can honestly say that I have most keenly felt God's presence and love.  He always gets it right----Stu and I won't-----but if we can just help our child to develop that relationship with God through Jesus Christ----he'll always have someone walking through the sadness alongside him----even when we as parents aren't able to do the same.
   Well---if you've made it this far through a rather long entry---maybe you won't mind my asking for a bit more of your time.  Please take a moment and pray for us---that we will be granted the wisdom to know what's right for our child.  And  pray for the birthmother of our child---I can't even imagine what she must be/will be feeling.    Most importantly---pray for our child's salvation in Christ----because we can give him nothing if he doesn't have that.