I'm really excited to be part of the 2012 Adoption Blogger Interview Project, created by Heather Schade of the open adoption blog Production, Not Reproduction. (Thanks, Heather!) The project pairs adoption bloggers for a mutual interview who might not otherwise connect.
Camille of Embracing the Odyssey and I got teamed up after our original partners dropped out, so we had to scramble to even make it late the party, but I'm so glad we did. I loved this chance to make a new friend who shares a passion for adoption issues and thoughtful conversation. She is great: mom through open adoption to a little girl, and mom by chance to two nearly grown men who needed a home; a Christian who defies stereotypes; and an advocate for adoption ethics and adoptee rights. You won't want to miss what she has to say!
Actually, when I first started blogging, I called the blog “The Adventures of Miss Ellie,” and early posts are singularly focused on her. My initial goal was to create a sort of on-line baby book and chronicle her every precious moment. (Her insistence on projectile vomiting at 2 a.m. every. single. night. may or may not be included for easy accessibility when I need to remind her teenager self why I get to make the rules.)
However, as she grew, and I began to learn more about what it means to be an adoptive parent (and heck, just a parent), I found my focus expanding. As we built a relationship with her birth family, I started advocating for open adoption. When folks said stupid things at the swimming pool, I started Mama-Bear rants about my transracial family. My blog became a way share my experiences with infertility, to speak truth about marriage and motherhood, and to explore my own faith.
Several months after I started writing, I had the opportunity to switch to a self-hosted Wordpress, and I decided to change the name. About that time, we had purchased a mini-van, a Honda Odyssey, and I remember joking I was going to be like blogger Kristen Howerton and “Rage Against the Minivan.” However, looking back on the months I’d spent at home, I realized I was rather enjoying the journey into this new phase of life. (Plus, minivans are so sexy, y’all. I push a button, and it obeys my commands, yo.) Thus, you have, “Embracing the Odyssey.” Being a mother (wife, sister, friend, Christian, adoptive parent, advocate, teacher) is a constant journey, and while some days I want to run screaming, I typically try to turn and face the challenges with a big bear hug. A little wine doesn’t hurt either.
Can you share a little bit more about your family, if you’re comfortable? In the bio on your blog, I see that your young daughter was adopted domestically in an open adoption. There are also two big handsome guys, one in high school and one in college, pictured with you and your husband, and I wasn’t sure if they were adopted officially, or had another connection to you that made them part of the family. Sorry if this question isn’t coming out right, but you and your husband don’t look old enough to have kids that age, so I imagine you get some variation of that question a lot!
Whatever do you mean? I’m 50; I found the illusive Fountain of Youth years ago. (I wish.) Seriously, Ian, 20, was a student of mine for three years when I taught high school. Upon graduation, due to unfavorable personal circumstances, he needed a home and a plan. We had an empty room, so he moved in, and we helped him enroll in college. Herdest, 18, worked as a tech at my husband’s vet clinic. Due to similar circumstances, he also found himself needing a home during his senior year. We had another bedroom, so he moved in as well and is now also in college.
I joke that during my experiences with infertility, I asked God to fill up my house; I just didn’t expect him to do it with full-grown boys.
They’ve been with us for almost a year now, and it’s hard to imagine life before they were here. While they’re not officially adopted, they’re part of the family in every way. They both work nights, and I worry like crazy that they’re not getting enough rest. I tease them about their girlfriends, fuss at them about their messy rooms, and want the absolute best for their futures. Ellie adores them as her brothers, and she gets to grow up knowing that families don’t all have to look the same. It’s not what we had planned, and it’s not always easy, but we’re so grateful for them.
What would you like prospective adoptive parents to know about
open adoption? How did you choose open domestic adoption as a way to form
I could write a BOOK on this. I’ll try to control myself.
I was fairly (ok, maybe a lot) hesitant about open adoption at first. I’d already experienced painful loss, and the idea of “sharing” my child with anyone was uncomfortable. Impractical. Complicated. Thank God our agency was committed to education.
After reading books, blogs, articles, etc., I soon came to understand that an open relationship would be in the best interest of my child; she’d have the comfort and security of access to all aspects of her story and the love and support from both her families. Any insecurity I might have felt was secondary to what was best for her. During that time, I also developed a more informed compassion and understanding for mothers who choose to place and knew that ethically and morally, I wanted a relationship that would honor and include my child’s birth mother.
Now, two years in, I’d say that open adoption is the most amazing blessing for all involved. After all, can there really be too many people to love a child? Members of Ellie’s birth family come to our house or we meet for visits every month or so. We share pictures and silly stories by e-mail and text. At this point, they just feel like...family, and Ellie doesn’t complain about extra people insistent on spoiling her.
We see her aunt and grandmother every month or so, but due to complicated circumstances in her mother’s life, we’ve only recently been able to start more regular visits with her. However, we’re committed to the work necessary to create a strong relationship. Open adoption is certainly a journey. It grows and changes as relationships mature and life circumstances change, and I’m sure it will look differently as Ellie grows up begins inserting her opinions into things. My hope is that we will have created a bridge between two families where she will feel safe, loved, and free to embrace all of herself.
You live in Memphis (and I’m a little jealous!) What are the benefits and challenges for a multiracial/adoptive family in your area?
Hah! We do have awesome barbecue. And Elvis.
As a large city, Memphis is certainly more diverse than other areas in the southeastern United States, and an assortment of festivals, museum exhibitions, music, and food make it a great area for exploring a variety of cultures. We belong to a playgroup where Ellie has friends of multiple races, and I’ve recently found an adoptive parent group that meets locally where I hope to connect with more transracial families.
However, in some ways, it still takes a conscious effort to make diversity a part of our lives. Certain areas of the city seem to foster diversity more than others, and we have to be proactive in taking part in opportunities around us.
While our neighborhood is quite diverse, our current church home is almost all white. Also, I’m not aware of any other families there with adopted children anywhere close to Ellie’s age. We’re exploring other options for the future.
Most of our friends and family have been very supportive of our family. Some sadly misguided individuals have expressed negative, stereotypical views of others….especially young, black males, but after I verbally eviscerate them, they refrain from expressing such views to me in the future.
Do you plan to adopt more children?
Yes. We’re currently in the process of updating our home study (rather complicated with two, non-related adults also living under our roof), and we hope to adopt another child within a year. This time, we’re planning to adopt an older child from foster care. We’ve always wanted a large family, but we also don’t want to take on more than we can handle. We just pray to be open to how God wants to use us and try to say “yes” to opportunities when we can.
You blog sometimes about God and being a Christian. How has your
faith impacted your decision to adopt? Can you share some thoughts about
the so-called Christian adoption movement? Do you feel personally
connected to this movement ie does your church commemorate Orphan Sunday
or hold adoption conferences? Or do you know families who are involved?
I ask, because although I’m a Christian, my church isn’t involved in any of these initiatives. The movement has been controversial and sometimes unfairly criticized in the media. I’ve written on my blog that I appreciate that this church community is talking about the orphan crisis and trying to find solutions for children. However, several recent tragedies, like the Barbour case, involved evangelical families, and I’m left wondering if some families are being encouraged, or even feel community pressure, to adopt who might not be ready for the challenges of adoption. Again, I hope this question isn’t coming out disrespectfully, but as someone outside this movement, it’s a question I’ve been dying to ask others, especially those who may have a closer relationship to it – but maybe you don’t either! We’ll see.
This is an interesting subject, and I think something that Christians should be discussing. Honestly, when we first pursued adoption, it had more to do with simply wanting to be parents than anything. My thoughts were on tiny fingers and kissing baby toes…..not some faith-based calling.
Of course, there was a lot of prayer involved in letting go of our perfect plan for how our family would come together, and in navigating the creation of our open adoption. (There was also a lot of “Dear little baby Jesus, pleeeeeeeease let her stay asleep….)
However, over the past two years, we’ve become much more knowledgeable about and interested in the plight of orphans around the globe, and we’ve come to believe that, as Christians, we’re called to be a part of the solution. Through blogging, I’ve met inspiring international adopters, and my heart aches for the millions of children who will never have a family. Likewise, my husband and I recently completed PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) classes through Youth Villages, and I also ache for the thousands of children in the United States who so desperately need safety and love.
Sadly, my church does not have an adoption movement or participate in these initiatives. However, other Memphis churches do foster an adoption culture by hosting conferences, sponsoring PATH foster-care training sessions in-house, and providing meeting places for adoption support groups.
I think it’s a positive thing for churches to focus attention on the orphan-crisis and support education and awareness movements. I believe all children deserve a safe and loving home with a family to love them. I think many people want to help, but have no idea how to get started, and I can’t help but think that if all the people calling themselves Christians truly cared for the orphans as we’re commanded, there wouldn’t be 400,000+ kids in foster care and millions of orphans worldwide. Churches that focus on adoption ministries create support systems for families who might otherwise be too afraid to leave their comfort zones. For instance, I met a friend in PATH classes who has four children, but she’s opening her home to foster two more. Her church has an entire group of young adults that decided to build their families through adoption, and they depend on one another during the tough times.
That said, I think you bring up valid concerns. Adoption should never become the “fad” thing that people do to better belong to a social group. It should never be a result of pressure, coercion, or guilt. A friend recently said, “it’s great to love adoption, but to be an adoptive parent, you need to love parenting.”
Besides, there are many solutions to the orphan crisis that don’t involve adoption at all. Churches who raise awareness about fighting poverty, improving maternal and neonatal health, providing access to birth control, or sponsoring children through an organization like Word Vision can also make a positive difference for children.
What advice would you give prospective parents who are considering adoption?
Ummm…..take a few months off work because you’ve got some SERIOUS reading to do. Take the time to do your research. Read books, blogs, articles, Web sites, etc., and make sure you find materials from all points of view (adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents). If there’s a local adoptive parents’ group in your area, go hang out with them. Ask them questions. Most APs love sharing their adoption stories. Hey, if you’re reading this blog, you’re on the right track!
You write a lot about adoption ethics on your blog. What do you want prospective parents to know about adoption ethics specifically?
Your child deserves to know his or her story. All of it. Make absolutely sure that the parts you have in that story are without blemish. You want to be able to tell your child that you did everything in your power to locate an ethical agency that treated his mother with respect, consideration, and care…..that you worked to build a strong relationship with his birth family….that you’ve always been honest with him.
Also, be aware of the issues. Before I became an adoptive parent, I didn’t know how many controversies existed over things such as adoption advertising or positive adoption language. I didn’t know that my daughter could be denied access to her original birth certificate, and I didn’t appreciate what a huge injustice that is to adoptees everywhere. Research what possible issues you and your family might face, and be prepared to advocate for you child.
Many worry that adoption, especially international adoption, is cost prohibitive. What would you say to someone with these financial concerns? Also, what are your thoughts on the ethics of adoption fundraisers?
I think it’s funny that no one would so much as blink if we purchased a new car, but people seem shocked for someone to spend a similar amount on adoption expenses. As you mentioned, fertility treatments are also extremely expensive and often do not result in a child, but people are willing to go to great lengths to build a family. For those who are truly interested in adoption, there are many options for handling the financial obligations. Many agencies base their fee structures on a couple’s income bracket to make adoption more affordable. Organizations such as www.showhope.org provide adoption aid grants. Also, foster care adoption can be virtually cost-free.
I generally don’t have an issue with adoption fundraisers if they’re done in a respectful way. I have a good friend who is adopting from Honduras, and the costs of multiple trips to the country along with all the other expenses have climbed rapidly. They both have good jobs and are responsible financial planners, but adding thousands of dollars to one’s budget within a few months is stressful for the most fiscally prepared. While I firmly believe that adoption is first and foremost a way to build families, I also believe that it can be a ministry. Thus, just as I might support a missionary, I sent money to my friend (complete with warm-fuzzies) with prayers for her family.
What resources have been most helpful to you as an adoptive parent?
SO many. But I’ve already written so ridiculously much, I seriously doubt you’re still reading, so I’m just going to link to my recommended books HERE. (There’s a really cute picture of my kiddo, so check it out.) Also, I follow a ton of blogs. Some favorites include:
- Rage Against the Minivan
- Jen Hatmaker
- The Declassified Adoptee
- Love is Not a Pie
- The Chaos and the Clutter
- Monika’s Musings
- Traded Dreams