Posts Tagged ‘Adoption’
For the record, I never really talk to people about my hall closet. For all of my advocacy, and as much as I’m open about infertility and what it has meant in my life, I very rarely have told people about the things behind that door.
There’s a baby bathtub resting along the inner right wall, with washcloths and a temperature duckie that sit lonely inside of its hollow belly. Blankets with nothing to wrap themselves around lie still and unbothered on the lower bottom shelf. A picture book gift from a friend is kept in it’s original mailer rather than being added it to my bookshelf and sits in a closet organizer where there are also infant clothes with tags hanging from their sleeves and a first Easter dress that was worn once and still smells of baby lotion. Sitting silent on the top shelf, collecting dust and grime as the days go by, are toys that have never been opened.
Sitting at my dining room table, just underneath a chair is a bumbo chair from a friend that I never touch. It’s blended in so well at this point that I often forget it’s there. Kind of like the carseat that sat in the corner for months until we finally got the courage to toss it out. Or the bag of newborn caps that is in the trunk of the car.
Ever so often, I will come across a barrette or headband that slipped through the cracks and just so happened to turn up on an especially hard day. There are also times where I run into that old box of baby bottles that I can’t bring myself to throw away, or a plastic case that used to hold baby wipes that I’ve had to re-appropriate.
The thing about my closet, and my hall, and my bottom drawer, is that they aren’t unique. There are thousands of other closets and drawers and trunks with hidden pockets of delayed hope. So many other people have walked past one onesie too many in a store and decided, “No, I’m gonna buy this in good faith.” Others still have walked down the road towards adoption, and prepared their homes and closets only to be left with the remnants of a dream that fell through their fingertips.
For over 200 days, my husband and I were foster parents to a child who was originally supposed to be our adopted daughter. We cared for her and loved her and encased our life around her in the hopes that fate would see our dedication and reward us.
They were mine, but not mine.
It was like holding our breath every.single.day.
I remember one night at my husband’s job, where I watched a couple pull up in their Mercedes truck. They came to the desk and gave him their keys making small talk about how “The Bulls Game is over, so we’re gonna go pick up the baby”. And my husband and I laughed at the fact that they were giving him that much information.
30 minutes later, they come back down, he carrying the baby carrier, and she carrying the bag while chatting on the phone. And they took their baby, and got into their Mercedes, and drove away to their life. Which may not be perfect. But had so much that I wanted in just that scene.
I wanted so badly to leave work, and pick up my husband, and pick up MY child, and go on with MY life. That’s what I WANT.
Instead, I’d drive to my husband, and we’d worry, and we’d plan, and we’d ponder…then we’d go and pick up someone else’s baby, and drive to our apartment, and we’d eat junk, and we’d worry more.
And I’d get so TIRED of it. Of those moments that didn’t really belong to me.
Of that little girl. Of singing to her, and taking my time with her, and loving her.
For it to not be mine. For me to have to turn her over to someone who didn’t care enough about her to not give her drugs before her first breath.
Seemed like some bullshit to me. And I tried consistently to have grace under pressure.
But it’s still some fucking bullshit.
People so often ask those with infertility why they won’t “just adopt”. They assume that all we want is a baby. And that since there are “sooo many” babies just waiting around for someone to save them, it’s a win-win for us both. And they don’t mean any harm for the most part. They see what could be a means to an end, I guess.
And in that means to an end, they don’t see what happens when it doesn’t work. When you’re holding your breath in the hospital and trying not to get too excited. They don’t see you standing in the hallway of the birthmother’s room, hoping that her visitors aren’t telling her to change her mind. They have no idea how tumultuous it is in your heart when you’re trying to show love to a newborn, and show their birthparents that they haven’t made a bad decision, while not overstepping any invisible boundaries. Or how confusing it is to answer the hospital staff about just who it is you are.
When people tell you to adopt, they don’t know about the feelings of inadequacy when that child is crying, and you aren’t sure if it’s because they know you aren’t their “real” mom. Or how many times you’re left speechless when trying to figure out how to answer medical questions, or fill out paperwork.
They have no idea how fast and intense your very being can plummet when a birthparent tells you that they have decided to parent. Or the fury and sadness that intermingle when they don’t even say it to you directly, but avoid you or simply block you from the hospital room, when just hours, days, months ago they were calling you their new best friend and thanking you for being there. There is no way to understand until you’ve been there that not only is it very easy to love a child whom you did not give birth to, but that when the prospect of being that child’s parent is snatched away, it feels as though your own has died.
And like others who have loved and lost, we mourn. And like so many others who mourn, we hoard those small reminders. Clothes and blankets, and toys, and dreams. Sitting on our shelves, stuffed into our closets, and unforgotten in our hearts.
You are not alone.
My closet is full too.
Recently, I was invited to visit The Cradle’s “Gale and Ardythe Sayers Center for African American adoption”, on behalf of The Egg. I had a really great time not only learning about the history of this great resource, but also just having a good “you get it” convo with Nijole (pronounced ni-lay), the organization’s Director of Resource and Community Development.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon, I met with my sorority sisters for lunch in Evanston and then headed over just in time to meet with Nijole at The Cradle’s headquarters. She and her son Harrison, a proud “Cradle Baby”, met me with huge smiles, open arms, and an adorable puppet, in the parking lot. Stopping in to take off our winter coats, one of the first things I saw was a Chicago Bears jersey of former player Gale Sayers, for whom the African American adoption center is named for.
Throughout the main floor were walls and walls of photographs of children who’ve been placed through The Cradle. There are photos just about everywhere, that make it very clear just how many lives have been changed here. Along a south wall, was a photo of a woman with a warm smirk, and an adorable hat. Nijole introduced her as Florence Walrath, founder of The Cradle.
The Cradle, was founded by Evanston, Illinois resident Florence Walrath in 1923. Having a sister who’d experienced infertility, Florence’s chance encounter with a doctor who knew of a young woman who was pregnant with no hope, led to Florence uniting the two women. That one match led to 91 years of building families!
I was inspired by the story of Florence Walrath. At the time she began her mission to find families for children, adoption was highly stigmatized. Because of the stigma, it was also a very quiet and secretive endeavor. One can imagine how much harder it had to be to face infertility during those days, and how heightened the guilt, shame and embarrassment must have been. To provide this service for so many families, was a true mission.
Not only did she work to unite families, but eventually also to bring some dignity to the process, for all involved. Her work in The Cradle also helped to address the high infant mortality rates that were of the time period. I’d encourage anyone to learn more about this amazing woman!
Continuing our tour, I visited The Cradle Museum, a room with original images and materials from the organization’s history.
I also visited the “Living room”, where the staff says their goodbyes to new families going home. Last on the main floor, I visited the room where many birth-parents have their introduction meetings with potential adoptive parents.
While standing in this room, a lot of thoughts flooded my head, and Nijole actually blessed me with the story of how she and her husband felt on the day they met their son’s birthmother in this very space. What a hard conversation. What a hard decision.
The more we talked, the more I felt that it is special people who are called to adoption. People who can accept the move past their original wants and desires, to accept that the primary goal is now to provide family for a child, and not to fill a void. The mourning process, for those of us who have dealt with infertility, and the act of letting go of the things you thought would be, is heart-wrenching. But also beautiful.
I applaud The Cradle for offering support and encouragement to those people.
Last on the tour, was a trip to visit the nursery. The Cradle is the only adoption agency in the country with a 24 hour nursery to house infants who are in need of temporary care. Volunteers come in to provide contact and love for the infants, while nursing staff is also on hand. Detailed notes are taken while infants are in their care, to monitor eating habits, personalities, and any other information that their parents may need when they head home.
Returning to Nijole’s office, we talked a bit more about what the Sayer’s Center program means for African American adoption. At half the cost, the Sayer’s program seeks to make adoption more accessible, in the hopes of removing a barrier that could be behind the lack of potential African American adoptive parents.
More than anything, our conversation at its heart, was still just one of the warm and comfortable ones I’ve come to expect when speaking to someone else who has dealt with infertility. Our wants are similar. We both want to make people aware. Aware of the resources available to them, and aware of how to empower themselves with the knowledge to change the conversation around family building. No one’s journey has to be identical to anyone else’s, but rather it’s the right of each of us to find the path that best suits us.
While adoption isn’t at the forefront of my husband and I’s journey right now, I have to admit to feeling sincerely grateful that there were other individuals like me, who were willing to be my support if it did become our next step.
The Cradle is not the only adoption agency. Their way of doing things is not the only way. Their program is, I’m sure, not solely unique. And adoption is not the path for everyone. However, I thought it was important to share this experience, and tell someone who needs to hear it, that adoption is a viable option for some of us, and it is not as out of reach as one may think.
Thank you Nijole for the tour, and for just being a warm fellow advocate in this fight.
Famed percussionist and recording artist Sheila E. has released a new memoir. As an 80’s baby, I’m inclined to love her. LOL She reminds me of big hair and great music, and really, what’s not to love? She was killing the game long before Beyonce, and she’d even had Mr. Graffiti Bridge himself, singing her praises on and off the stage.
Well, the New York Daily News did a write-up on Escovedo’s new book, with tons of juicy bits to entice us to check it out, and while for the most part, I was really pleased and excited, my spidey senses perked up unfortunately. Since I’d seen her “Unsung” episode last year, I was really interested to see what else she was planning to share. More info on her love affair with The Purple One, her uncomfortable but industry-changing sexual revolution, and then, her feelings on friend Lionel Richie’s adoption of her niece Nicole.
Here’s how it’s written up in Sheila’s book, which is co-authored by Wendy Holden:
“Then Richie’s wife Brenda, who had been hungering for a child, suggested adopting Nicole. “Lionel … would do anything to keep Brenda happy,” Escovedo writes.
The Richies convinced Peter and Karen to give up their child.”
Come on man. Stereotype much? We gotta do better.
Now, it’s not all bad, as Sheila has always been very upfront about how difficult it was for her family when Nicole was adopted. She generally comes from a place of love about it, I’m sure. So, assuming that like many, perhaps Holden and Escovedo just don’t realize how the particular phrasing used in their book can be damaging, allow me to share four requests I have from just that short excerpt.
The Richies convinced Peter and Karen to give up their child.
1. PLEASE stop painting adoptive parents as baby-snatchers who want nothing more than to steal children from loving families.
“Lionel … would do anything to keep Brenda happy,
2. PLEASE stop painting WOMEN as the primary offenders, and portraying husbands as well-meaning dopes who move heaven and earth to fill their wives “ridiculous cravings” for children.
3. PLEASE stop painting birth-parents who choose to place their children for adoption, as idiots who are taken advantage of. The decision to place a child for adoption is not a light one, and it is a BRAVE one. Don’t belittle their bravery by wording things in a way which implies that they were basically tricked into doing what other people convinced them was best. This, I’m sure has been the case for some, especially as we go back a couple of decades, but it is NOT the case for all, and when you report on it that way, you perpetuate a stereotype that can hinder more than help.
4. PLEASE stop deciding that someone else’s story should be yours. No matter the auntie heartstrings she may have been feeling pulled from, or how she perceived the situation to play out, Nicole Richie’s adoption story belongs to HER, her parents, and her BIRTH parents. Your feelings about it, your momma’s feelings, the teacher’s feelings, the postman’s feelings, do not matter at the end of the day. No matter how old she is, this is HER story, and it should be respected and treated with a certain amount of care.
Now to be clear, LOL I’m a fan, so I’ll still probably read the book, and I’m not encouraging anyone else not to. All I’m asking, is that we start to pay closer attention to HOW we say things, and how those seemingly simple comments/statements can have dire implications for others. For every one person who read that excerpt and said, “Oh, that’s interesting”, and moved on with their day, five more were just as likely to say, “Oh, see, I knew our people didn’t adopt, I knew there had to be a story there”.
While adoption is difficult for birth families, there is a time and a place to deal with it, and in my opinion, your memoir may not be that place, especially if you are still feeling some kinda way. What we should take from this, is that there is definitely a need to do more in terms of supporting the relatives of adopted children. There is obviously a wound there that should be receiving far more salve. I found ONE study that stated as much.
When you know better, you do better. We need to get more people in the know.
When I discovered that I was a shocking 33 books behind on my Goodreads goal for the year, I went into a frenzy of book selections. I have three e-books on my phone and Ipad, six graphic novels on my desk, two young adult novels in my bag, a playaway digital book in my car, and two audiobooks on my phone.
Don’t judge me.
Anyway, one of the audiobooks, was Nia Vardalos’ “Instant Mom”.
While parts ring so very uncomfortably true that they bring tears to my eyes, another part of me knows that I will have to buy this book. In print, so that I can highlight parts, and extract quotes. I will then have to buy an extra copy so that I can wrap it in a note and give it to someone as oxygen.
I needed this book right now. I needed her hope, and her sorrow, and her success. I needed to hear my reflection. I’ve been stuffing myself so far down into my own chest that I have literally forgotten my feelings at times. I’ve hidden them under anger or fear, or completely blacked them out. I’ve treated the experience of our failed adoption this year the way I treat all mistakes in my life: as they that must not be named.
Do you know how when you’re writing longhand and you make a mistake in pen you can just draw a line through it and keep going?
Yeah. I don’t. Because I could never deal with just that line. I, and more importantly, any other human, would still be able to see my error… and that cannot be. I have to completely eviscerate the word or sentence. Like, to the point where the paper thins out where I’ve drug the pen across so hard.
That, is how much I hate making mistakes. How much I hate feeling or looking stupid. How much I hate failing. And this stupid journey(both the infertility and adoption) feels all the time like an error I can’t correct, white out, or even strike through. And I haaaaaaaate it.
I want to be past it already. To be on the other side. To be in the success story and look at me now portion. And no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to. And it hurts fresh every time I realize it. Like waking up in a new place everyday and being reminded that I’m there because my house burned down.
So when I listened to Nia explain this exact frustration as she journeys backwards through letdown after letdown, I felt both invigorated and instantly saddened. Because I got it. I got it in a way that no fan or family member who read it without walking this road could. I got her, because she got me.
She explained quite vulnerably, how her naturally upbeat personality made her wish, just as I have for so long, to just put this all behind her. She hates discussing infertility, and wanted to focus on being a mom, and finally being happy, but fate has a way of making us share our stories when they can help others. Nia soon found that the best way for her to feel truly “past” it all, was to tell the story of her journey, and help other hurting people find their children also.
This book examined not only the pain of infertility itself, but the struggle of enduring baby showers, failed IVF cycles, the pitfalls of shady adoption “professionals”, and even “the after”. The hero of this story, however, was hope. No matter how many walls Nia and her husband Ian Gomez hit, they maintained their ability to love one another, and love their dreams enough not to let them go.
The Vardalos-Gomez family found their daughter through the foster adoption system. I appreciated a celebrity speaking out on behalf of the kids who are in the foster care system and eligible for adoption. Nia took care to speak against the stigma that both adoption and foster care receive. She expressed that she respects everyone’s choices in how they plan to build their families, but that she encourages people to investigate all the options available.
This voice was so very valuable. Nia holds nothing back,…well, there is that first 80% of the book where she holds back her daughter’s name,…but other than that, she was exceptionally honest and real. Her humor, as anyone who has watched her movies is familiar with, was very present in every chapter and she also includes an appendix that is full of adoption resources.
Now, as a librarian, I usually advise you to grab books from your local library, but Nia donates proceeds from the sales of this book to adoption charities, so I’m okay with you buying this one. 🙂
Darn straight, Nia.
Ps: I recommend listening to the audiobook, because she reads it herself, and all the emotion is present in her voice.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, perhaps because everyone has been pretty darn quiet on the infertility front celeb-wise. But Dawn Robinson deserves a nod.
A few years back, I had the displeasure of sitting in a radiology waiting room with a 40 year old black woman who was being tested for fibroids. She had no idea what fibroids were. She was scared and alone, with a look on her face that said clearly how terrified she was about the x-ray itself, but also these tumors her doctor carelessly told her she may have. My heart broke for her, and for the countless others who had probably sat in the same seats, thinking those same terrifying thoughts.
So tonight, for Dawn to openly discuss her removed fibroids as well as the endometriosis she’d also been diagnosed with, was huge. But let’s not just stick with that. No. Dawn has done so very much in the past few weeks of R&B Divas L.A., with just her honesty and vulnerability, that I don’t know that I could have asked for a better spokesperson. (more…)
Long time no blog.
I know. *slaps own hand* “Bad Blogger!” But come on in, have a seat…
If you hang with me on Facebook and Twitter, then you know I haven’t really left, but that I’ve just been extremely more quiet about what is going on inside my own journey. There’s good reason, I promise. (more…)