Aug 19, 2006

Ethiopian Adoption: the beginnings.

As we prepare to begin the process of adopting a daughter from Ethiopia (we're going to start our homestudy this November, if all goes according to plan) I thought I'd begin posting about it.

First, I thought I would talk about why adopt, and why Ethiopia.

Loli is 4 years old, will be 5 in January. She was born of a different marriage, one that ended badly and had to end in divorce. It was a difficult time, and a difficult situation, and I did not fully recover from it for a while. I was not planning on dating or marriage again until after I finished grad school. Well, the unexpected happened and I married a wonderful guy, and we're very happy, and just recently had a second daughter.

They love each other already. Loli loves tickling Jaws and playing with her and making her smile.

But I have felt strongly that there is someone missing there. I remember when I was not married, when Loli was about 2 or so, feeling that an important event was passing my family by, passing Loli and I by. I thought about it a lot. But I was not married, and even if I weren't a religious woman who believes that premarital sex is wrong, and that I ought not to try any of the other options without a Dad in place to take care of the Dad side of parenting, I would not have had the time or resources to pursue such a venue.

Ever since I was little, I have thought about adoption. International adoption, especially. My mom was interested in it for a time, as well... She did research mostly on adoption from China. I remember thinking, when I was about 15 or so when she was doing this research, that it would be such an amazing thing to have a sibling from another country.

Since then it has been my secret wish to have a multi-national family. When I was in college, I studied Psychology. My favorite class was Child Development. Attachment disorders fascinated me because of a family in our ward back home who adopted several older children who all had problems later related to their lack of ability to attach. Every research project I did in college where I was given free reign to choose a subject was either on adoption or attachment disorders.

When I was a Junior, I began working with a professor who did research on children and trauma. For two years, I was given the job of running his lab, and charge over an extensive lit review on Children and Traumatic Grief. I read a lot about children and third-world countries, children and war, and children and severe neglect and deprivation.

A year or so later when Skywalker and I were dating, I mentioned this to him, just as an aside in one of our conversations. His response was "why do all women want to adopt?" I was kind of baffled by this, as it is not my experience that most women really consider this option seriously, especially if they have little or no trouble having their own children. Maybe this is a misperception of mine. At any rate, at this response, I filed my secret wish away at the back of my head, as something that may not be able to happen or be fulfilled, because it is wrong to coerce a spouse into something like this.

About a year after we were married, when I was about 6 months along with Jaws, Loli was playing with an extremely adorable girl from Korea. Their family sat in front of us in church every Sunday. The mother, brother, and father's English were good, but the little girl spoke mostly Korean. Jeff and I smiled, watching the little girl's enthusiastic interactions with Loli. Just on impulse, without really thinking much about what I was saying, I turned to Skywalker and said, "It's amazing to me that you don't want a little girl like that."

The remark was harsher than I meant it to be. I was fully expecting him to raise an eyebrow at me and not dignify my comment with a response of any kind, but to my surprise, he smiled at me and said, "I never said I didn't want to adopt."


Well, yeah. I guess he never did.

I asked him if it would be all right if I pursued inquiries into adoption from foreign countries. He said it would be all right with him, as long as I didn't go crazy and forget I was pregnant and already a mom and that he was going to school.

So I did my research. I got packets from all of the agencies in my area that I could find, as well as information from the major agencies in the US. After reading through these, I liked the Bethany program, as well as one of the agencies here.

finally, I talked to my mom about it. I wasn't talking to anyone before that, out of respect for Skywalker's wishes. But I figured, my mom is my mom, and my support in some things, and she went through this process ten years before, so maybe she would have something to offer.

She got excited and later called me and told me I ought to check out an agency that worked to place children from Africa. I wasn't too sure about this. See, African children would be the most neglected, impoverished, possibly malnourished, etc. population we could choose (except possibly Haiti). Also, I was worried because my little family is about as Caucasian as you can possibly get. I have been a white-blonde since birth, my daughter has my hair, and Jeff had very blonde hair as a child. Our new little baby followed this trend. What sorts of comments would we get? Would our adopted child face persecution and a feeling of not belonging?

I had planned on an Asian child, because I figured that, with our culture and its assumptions about race, that would be an easier place to start. So I put the thought of Africa out of my mind. I figured that if I could convince Skywalker to go with my dream of a multi-national family, we could always do Africa later, after we had a lot of experience as adoptive parents.

My mom had a packet from this agency sent to me, and just to be fair, I read it over. I was reading it for the first time as I drove to my job (I worked full time graves at an inpatient treatment facility. See? I was crazy to think about adoption what with all that our family had on our plate. Skywalker was right.)

Anyway, as I was driving, I would pause and read a bit at stoplights.

And suddenly, it hit me. This overwhemling feeling of tenderness, of urgency, of belonging. I knew, in that moment, while waiting for the light to change to green, that this was what we were supposed to do. It was a feeling as strong as any spiritual prompting I have ever had, and so I could not discount it as sentimentality, or merely feeling sorry for the children in question.

My mind was boggled by the implications. I held off for a bit, and then told Skywalker what I had experienced. He nodded and said, "well then, you'd better keep looking into that," but seconded his request for me to hold off on inundating him with information until he finished his finals and got a job-- very reasonable.

Well, he has his job. Finals went well. We have discussed it more, I have called the agency and asked a million questions and... I know it's right. And Skywalker is at peace about it, too.

So our goal: Save up enough for the homestudy and application fee. The waiting list for this agency to adopt from Ethiopia, the country we settled on, is 18-24 months long, and so we will be saving up enough for the actual adoption (12,000) during that time.

I'm not looking forward to the paperwork, but at the same time, I know this will be a growing experience for our family. This wait, this evaluation of how we are as parents. Preparing to adopt a child who may have quite a few special needs at first (or maybe even for a significant period of time) will help us be better as a family.

And it's what is meant to happen, and so I know Heavenly Father will bless us.


Janell said...

I would suppose that adoption has crossed the minds of most LDS women simply as our beliefs strongly support and ecourage families. As such, we have a desire to bless all of our spiritual sibilngs with two of the things that we hold most dear: the gospel and a loving family. I would further suppose that most families do not actually persue adoption due to financial constraints, situation constraints, our perseptions and stereotypes of adoption, the fear of potential social implications, the fear of taking on the responsibility of a child with a very different background than your other children, etc. Especially with children who's genetic structure is so far removed from your's and your spouses or who's background and birth culture is so different from your own, the idea of adoption can almost be terrifying.

You're family is amazing for so willingly accepting the blessings of our Father and for your trust that everything will work out as it ought. Best wishes on a smooth adoption process!

NoSurfGirl said...

I think you're right-- it has probably crossed almost every woman's mind at some point. I guess I should amend the statement to say that, for the reasons you put there, maybe only a few of them talk about doing it.

Skywalker later told me that the girl he was dating previous to me really wanted to adopt, and made it sound like this was instead of having their own kids, so I think he felt a little insecure about the idea of adoption.

Yes, it's a scary, scary thing...

and I think twice about it almost every time I think about it, but then I feel that reassurance that it's what we're supposed to be doing for whatever reason.

Thanks for your post.