May 8, 2009

Gearing up for the adoption: Learning it all, and then forgetting

In preparation for bringing home our two girls, I have read book after book and website after website on attachment, parenting children with problems/tragedy and issues, parenting in general, parenting black children in a white home, parenting foreign children in an American home, black hair care and skin care, Ethiopian culture, customs and traditions, and any other subject I could think of that may help.

Even before this, I have always had a fascination with adoption and attachment, and child trauma and grieving. Growing up, I knew a family who had adopted several older children out of the US foster care system. Some of the situations turned out wonderfully, and others were complete heartbreak for the adoptive family. Oddly, this is what initially inspired me to think about adoption for myself. I have no idea why... shouldn't something like that be a deterrent? I feel like the Spirit was telling me, even then, that this was what I was going to do, and that it would be difficult, yes, but I would do it and Heavenly Father would help me handle it.

In college I studied Psychology, with an emphasis on child developmental psych. I took the course and TA'd it, and did my end-of-year project on Adoption and Attachment disorders. In my technical writing class, I did my project on Adoption and Attachment disorders. I wrote several of my psych papers on... Adoption and Attachment disorders.

I joined the psych research lab of a prominent BYU child developmental psychologist, and headed up a massive lit review on Child Traumatic Grief. I've read Rutter, Bowlby, and many more modern attachment and child grief theorists. Rutter wrote over 300 articles, just thought I'd let you know. His work was with Romanian orphans and their adoptive families.

Add to that the hours of adoption classes our Homestudy Agency requires, and the email lists I have gleaned for three solid pages of referrals and information I might need...

I'm trying to forget it all.

As we take these final steps to prepare for bringing Woinshet and Meaza home, I realize that I have prepared as much as I could (over-prepared, to be honest)... and I don't want to put problems in where they aren't. I want to erase my mind of all that "could" happen and instead focus on our new kids. I don't want to borrow trouble, though I have prepared extensively for trouble. I don't want to be so trigger-happy, looking for trauma and maladjustment, that I create an issue where there really isn't one... or an attachment problem where really, it's just normal kids trying to adjust to a new mom who they don't know, and grieving the loss of a previous mom that I never knew.

I am bringing one, and only one book with me to Ethiopia when we leave: The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss. This book is the most positive, amazing, heartbreaking, touching tome on adoption I have ever read. It's a woman simply telling her own story...

Helen Doss and her husband, who was a protestant minister, discovered they could not have children. And so they decided to adopt. The first baby they brought home was stereotypically the perfect child, "fit right in" to their family. He was blond, and had no physical problems. They named him David, giving him the adoptive father's name. But Helen, who had always envisioned herself with a large family, got baby hungry again. At the agency, they told her it was unlikely she'd get another child, unless she was willing to take one that was "less acceptable." When she inquired what that meant, they brought her to see two little babies: a sweet, healthy, gorgeous little girl of Mexican heritage, who was labeled undesireable because of her race, and a little sickly, white baby girl with a large strawberry birthmark covering half her face.

She took them both.

And then she adopted nine more, all of various diverse ethnicities and situations. By the time she finished adopting, she was adopting older kids, she was adopting two at a time, she was taking in troubled foster children... and all of this during the 1940's and 50's, when there were no Angelina Jolies or Madonnas adopting foreign children and setting trends. This was during the time of World War II, when we here in America were putting American citizens into internment camps simply because of racial background. This was still during the time of Jim Crow, when segregation was the norm in large parts of the country. How did she do it? When you read this woman's book, you sense no bitterness, no agonizing over the difficulties she must have faced, no anger at those around her who made insensitive remarks. She quietly educated, and just expected her kids to be included. She helped them through tough spots, using her own religious beliefs and general friendliness to build bridges.

this woman is my hero. Go read her book. But be forewarned... you may end up convinced.


merrilykaroly said...

wow, you've done a lot of research! but you're not only prepared with all that info; you're also prepared with lots of love.

Liz L said...

JP and I are so excited for your family! We've been behind on our blogging and just now see the news. What do your girls think of it all? This is something I would love to do one day - maybe your experience will help ease all of JP's (very legitimate) concerns. We'll keep you in our prayers and can't wait to see pics of your beautiful new girls.

Fred said...

And I thought there wasn't a handbook on how to raise children. I think you've debunked that myth.

Putz said...

it would take an awful lot(NOT) to (convince me////

Lucy Stern said...

The spirit will guide you in raising these girls....Just love them and do your best...You are going to do fine.