Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Baby We Already Have

My husband and I were childless when we took our first foster placement so it was just "us" left to deal with the heartache of welcoming a child into our lives and having to say goodbye a short time later.  Each time we passed by Justin's vacant bedroom after he left it was a torturous reminder of what we didn't have: namely, a child of our own.  But we're adults- we can deal with it. 

Just two weeks after we took a baby girl as our second placement we welcomed another baby girl into our lives "for keeps" as M's birthmother chose us to be the parents of her baby.  The fact that we had a baby of our own when Molly left made her leaving bearable.  Of course M. was just six months old when Molly left our home so although she has seen plenty of pictures of her with another baby girl who we call her foster sister she doesn't remember when Molly lived with us.

Five months ago when we got the call from DCFS and I went to pick up Christian I told M, "We're going to go pick up a little baby boy and bring him home to stay with us. Does that sound fun?"

She was excited and just took it matter-of-factly as if I had just mentioned that we were going to the store to pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.  And overnight she went from being an only child to sharing her home and mommy and daddy's time and attention with a baby foster brother.  For the most part she's done remarkably well, but this placement has brought us some new challenges and is different from our first two placements since it's the first placement we've had where our daughter is old enough to understand what's going on and because of this it won't be just Jared and I that are affected by the change of reunification, but M will be affected as well. 

One day after Christian had been with us for a couple of months I took him to his weekly supervised visit with his dad.  That particular day M. insisted on coming with me to the DCFS Office rather than staying behind at a play date I had scheduled for her.  When we got to the DCFS building and I handed the baby over to his dad M. became a little confused and turned to me and asked out loud, "Who's THAT Guy?"  I smiled and casually explained that it was the baby's daddy and left it at that until we went outside and got back in the car. 

"This is going to be tricky" I thought. "How do I explain foster care to a 2 year old?"    I knew that I had to have a talk with M. right then and there so while we were in our car I explained  "M, we're just babysitting the baby for his daddy- he's not our baby.  But we get to love him and take care of him and then when we're done he'll go back to live with his daddy" (birthmom wasn't back in the picture at that point).  She responded to my explanation with a slightly confused look on her face which turned to disappointment.  And, of course, being the worry-wart that I am I immediately thought, "Oh no!  What if she's confused and thinks that she's not ours either and that she is going to get sent way or something."  So then I immediately piped up ,"But M, YOU are mommy and daddy's girl forever and you ALWAYS get to stay with us!"

I referred to weekly visits after that day as "taking the baby to see his daddy" and it has become as natural and normal to M. as telling her that we're going to the store or the park.  Recently, however, we've been trying to prepare M. for the fact that the baby won't be in our home forever and that soon he will be leaving and returning to his daddy permanently- not just for a visit.

Each time we try explaining things M. gets very sad- sometimes she will even cry and say, "But I don't want the baby to go back to his daddy!".  It's heartbreaking.  When she says that I remind her that we can keep praying for a baby brother or sister.  It's become almost a daily script.

A couple of nights ago as I was tucking her in bed we went through "the script" in reverse order: I reminded her to ask Heavenly Father for a baby brother or sister in her prayers and she immediately said, "But I don't want the baby to go back- I want the baby we already have!"  I was surprised at how articulate she was.

It's ironic- Our family wants a baby more than anything right now.  But "the baby we already have" is not ours.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Adoption Books for Children

I recently read three more children's books about adoption and have decided to add two of them to my personal collection. (in addition to Over The Moon which my daughter loves!)

Two great books about adoption geared towards children in early childhood are:

God Found us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren


I Wished For You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond

Both of these illustrated books feature animals as the main characters who discuss with their adopted little ones how their families were created through adoption with an emphasis on the joy the parents felt when their child was able to join their families.

Both of these books also address issues of adopted children not necessarilly looking like their adoptive family which I think would be especially helpful for children who have been adopted by a family of a different race.

In I Wished For You, the adoptive mother's simple yet wise answer to her child's question about not looking like each other is
"Some families look alike, and others don't. 
All families are different. 
What makes a family is their love for each other."
Here is another simple and yet very touching explanation that Mama Fox gives to Baby Fox in God Found Us You when he asks about his birthmother:

"I think she prayed like crazy that you would be safe, Little Fox.
I think she prayed for me as much as I prayed for her." Mama's voice got all whispery.

"I came then? To you?"

Mama nodded, happy tears in her eyes.  "You came then.  When God found us you, you made me the happiest mama in the world."

Adoption Books For Older Children:

I've been wanting to find some books about adoption for older children and sadly, there was only one that I could find at my local library which was over twenty years old (copyright 1986).

If anyone has some recommendations for books about adoption geared towards chlidren in middle to older childhood please tell me!

Here is the summary for Adoption is For Always by Linda Walvoord Girard:

"Although Celia reacts to having been adopted with anger and insecurity, her parents help her accept her feelings and celebrate their love for her by making her adoption day a family holiday."

The main character in this book is a little girl named Celia, who is probably about eight years old. Although Celia's parents have told her from the time she was very little that she was adopted and "hadn't grown inside her mommy but had grown inside a lady called a birthmother" Celia hadn't fully comprehended what it meant to be adopted until now. With Celia's new understanding of what it means to be adopted she begins to struggle with feelings of confusion, betrayal, anger, and sadness.

Needless to say, I had a hard time reading this book but I read it anyway.  But there was one part in particular that made me cringe:

"Do all birthmothers love their children?" Celia asked her teacher, Mrs. Thomas.
"I think your birthmother loved you, "Mrs. Thomas said.  She seemed to know just what Celia was thinking.
"How do you know?" Celia asked.
"She had to love you in order to give you up," her teacher said.

Okay, I think I know what Celia's teacher meant by what she said, but it was the words she used in her response that made me very tempted to take a pen and cross out the words "give you up" and write "place you" or cross out "up" and replace it with "a family". 

give you up place you       give you up a family

Birthparents don't "give up" their children!  (If you need any further clarifications regarding my feelings about adoption terminology refer to this post or this post. )

Despite the negative phraseology, the sensitive subject matter, and the outdated pictures, I appreciate the fact that there is a book out there which addresses issues a young child might have regarding their adoption- especially perceptions of being unwanted by their birthparents.  [In this book, the little girl wondered if her birthparents hadn't kept her because she had been a bad baby or an ugly baby.  Of course, this book was written when open adoptions weren't as prevalent as they are today, so some of those issues could be minimized or resolved through open and honest communication in an open adoption.]

Still, it is painful for me to think that someday my daughter may face abondonment issues or may say to me "You're not my REAL mom!" which is basically what the little girl in this book tells her mom to make her feel bad as she sorts through her feelings of being adopted.

BUT . . . As an adoptive parent I need to be prepared to accept any feelings my daughter may have in the future regarding her adoption.  I think it's crucial for all members of the adoption triad to respect the feelings and perceptions that other members of the triad might have, even if they don't necessarilly understand or agree with differing feelings and opinions.

Some examples: Do I know what it's like to be a birthmother? No. As a foster parent I know what it's like to care for a child for an extended time and then have to say goodbye to that child so I may be able to sympathize with the grief and loss a birthmother experiences, but I can never have truly empathize with what a birthmother has gone through as I have never been faced with an unplanned pregnancy, carried a child in my womb, become attached to my baby, and then been faced with the difficult decision of placing or parenting.  Unless I have experienced that I have no right to say "I know how that feels." OR to make judgments on how a birthmother should feel or what would be best for her and her baby.

Similarly, I have no right to tell my daughter or any other individual who has been adopted how they should or shouldn't feel.  As an adoptive parent it's difficult for me to hear people who were adopted make comments like "Despite being raised in a loving home, I still struggle with issues of abandonment and my identity."  My first instinct is to say, "But you shouldn't feel that way! Don't you know how much your parents love you?" But then I have to take a step back and remind myself that everybody is entitled to their own feelings.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Feeling Lucky

Remember the giveaway for the book I mentioned in this post?


(Book Review Coming Soon)

I guess it pays to stalk blogs (adoption and foster-care related blogs are my personal favorites) because yesterday as I was getting caught up on my reading I discovered that I had won yet ANOTHER GIVEAWAY which happens to be the fourth giveaway I've entered & won on an adoption-related blog in the past couple of months! (the first being here and the second being here)

[In my defense, I don't sit around all day long and read blogs, but I readily admit that taking a few minutes each day for blogging (both reading and writing) serves a much needed and welcome break from dishes, laundry, meal prep, bottles, diapers, play-doh, coloring books, etc.]

My latest lucky win is a CD called Little Clair de Lune: Lullabies on Harp (how angelic!) by the talented Emily Hinchey.

Let me tell you why I'm so excited about this CD:

*I love lullabies

*I love the sound of harps.

*I love it when little ones are peacefully sleeping.

*And I love the song Claire de Lune (which, among other things, makes me think of the ending scene in Ocean's 11 when they are looking at the lights of the Bellagio, but I digress). . .

Needless to say, I am going to LOVE listening to this CD, as will any other babies or children that come into our home.

But the BEST PART is that Emily is donating some of the proceeds from her CD to a charity that improves the conditions of
Orphanages in Bulgaria
. What a beautiful cause.

Thank you, EMILY, for sharing your talents to benefit others.

And Thank you KENNA and KIM for your giveaways!