1) What are you doing to transition from being a Caucasian family to being a family of color?
We are in the process of trying to research which Nation/Band Little Miss is a part of. We have applied for her First Nation’s Status through the Canadian Government, which will be very helpful to her long term. Currently, our understanding is that she is part Chilean, Cree, and ‘unknown’ aboriginal (if that makes sense), thinking Stolo…but still trying to figure this out. The great thing is that our school programs offer Aboriginal Support Workers that work with the kids weekly to help celebrate pieces of their heritage that they may not get elsewhere. Luckily for me, being a teacher, I’ve got someone to pick their brain for ideas at home. So, once we get a better idea of Little Miss’s lineage, we can look at celebrations/cultural pieces that are specific to her Nation(s)…through that in with a Spanish mix, and we’ll be having quite the party! I’m excited to introduce this to our entire family!
2) What surprised you the most about adopting--both the positive thing you weren't expecting and the challenge you were not expecting?
What surprised me most, was how open I actually became with our birthmother/family. Openness really scared me in the beginning because I just had no idea of what it looked like. And now, I enjoy our visits so much together and want Little Miss to know her sisters and her mother. I truly do love her other sisters so much. They are quite an ‘at – risk’ family; it always breaks my heart leaving them because I know that Little Miss’s upbringing and lifestyle will be so drastically different. It makes me sad but I know that I can’t adopt them all, nor should I. Birthmom loves all of her girls very much and is doing the best that she can.
The challenge, was that I had trouble attaching in the beginning. I’ve written about that before and do attribute it to being so terrified that she would be taken back, after she was born. We had quite a bumpy start with our birthfamily and my RPL history led me to be very protective of my heart. I couldn’t take another loss. It took me a couple of months to let go of that fear and open my heart completely; accepting all of the risks that came with loving her. It was almost like starting a new relationship after a break-up. You are guarded, unsure if you can completely let go, but then when you do, it is the most rewarding experience ever.
3) How are you talking to your daughter about being adopted? I know that she is too young to be verbal about it, but what are you doing now (like celebrating
Little Miss will always know that she is adopted. We have several story books already to help guide our conversations. She is still an infant so these conversations haven’t really started happening. It’s not something that you can really plan out, it will just be a natural part of parenting. Questions will arise and we will always be open to answer them. As she grows older, her understanding will deepen, and conversations will broaden appropriately. But the great thing is that she’ll always know her birthfamily; we’ve made a very strong effort to keep that tie strong. While it may change over the years, Little Miss will always know how loved she is by all of us.
We make a big deal of all of the dates that surround her coming to our family. The day we called the agency, the day we got the call, the day she became ours ‘forever’. I’m so glad that I was blogging during that time as I hope to show her just how amazed and excited I was that she was coming to join our family. I can just see her rolling her eyes at me when she’s a teenager…”Today was the day that…blah blah blah…EEEEEEEEEEEEK I’m so excited”. “Oh Mom!!!” ;)
4) What "advice" would you give someone who is planning on adopting that you wished you had received?
Be really honest with the birthfamily and always know what your limitations are. Our boundaries can always change but can also become very blurry when you are still in the ‘match’ process. Draw your line in the sand and start on how you intend on continuing. I actually did receive this advice from a dear friend in the ALI community, but it would have been very helpful to have known that before the drama started to arise during our placement/match process. You have to remove yourself from the ‘outcome’ of bringing that baby home and stay true to your values/beliefs on how you intend on having your relationship continue. Detach from the outcome – period. Emotions can often drive us into situations that we are very uncomfortable with. ‘Reason’ needs to prevail during this incredibly difficult and exciting time.
5) What are the major issues that have arisen around open adoption? Both the things that you expected and the things you did not?
The major issue is us having to shut down communication/openness with Little Miss’s birthfather for current safety concerns. We had not expected this but are just moving through it as it currently is. Understanding him more, has helped us reflect back and helps to explain why some events occurred early in our relationship: things that we were not very comfortable with. It has also affirmed that your gut reaction is usually always spot on. Listen to that little voice, always.
If you feel uncomfortable about something/someone; examine it, ask questions, reflect about yourself, and then proceed forward continuing to stay true to your values. What I’ve always felt is a strong connection towards our birthmother. It’s really important to be able to separate members of the birthfamily and not let one person’s actions completely dictate your relationship with the other people in the family. You have to be able to separate things, if you can, and always put the needs of the child first. For us, safety became an issue a few times. So we’ve closed the areas that need to be closed for the time being, and left the others open until proven otherwise.
6) If you could do things differently around your adoption process, what is one or maybe a few things you would change, and what are some things you would keep the same?
I wouldn’t really do anything different other than giving the agency a piece of my mind when I thought that they were dropping the ball on us. I’m still pretty upset about the way they handled things. I know that our adoption situation was very complicated and not a ‘normal’ local adoption, I guess I just expected that the agency would provide more support for us during those challenging times, especially given the circumstances. From what I hear around the blogosphere though, this seems to be a very common theme. Disappointing for sure.
But would I have another birthfamily just for the ‘ease’ of an easier placement????
Not a chance. It was all worth it. And I truly believe that my heart is so much more full because of all of the children (sisters) now in my life.
7) How is it different adopting transracially versus adopting a child of the same race as you and your husband.
We have become very aware now of First Nation’s celebrations and cultural events in our community. Honestly, it’s like we’re finally listening to information that has always been out there; information that we previously might not have felt we had to celebrate. Vancouver is a very multicultural community, so we have many celebrations recognized throughout the year. Now we just have something extra that is dear to our heart. What’s amazing is how strong the Aboriginal community is here. The West Coast is abundant with resources, museums, and stories about Aboriginal People. We’re very fortunate for that. Now we just have to also figure out more about her Chilean routes. We’ve become a unique multicultural family; I look forward to the many new discoveries we still have to make!
Through conversations with our friends and family, we’re learning that our adoption has also affected their understanding of transracial families. Some have even gone so far as to say, that they have become more understanding/less judgmental; which is great. I think we’ve all grown personally from this experience. Any time we can lose judgment and open our hearts to more compassion for others, is truly mindful and purposeful living. I’m so happy that we’ve been able to experience our adoption in this way. In a way, we are not only educating ourselves but also those around us. Together, we are all growing as individuals because of this amazing experience.
Thanks Seriously?!, for sharing your experience and letting all of us into your life as you continue to negotiate through the world of adoption and parenting. Welcome to the world of Transracial Adoption. I feel like I have made a new friend! If you’d like to read more of the other interviews that took place with this project that was facilitated by Heather, from Production, Not Reproduction, please click on the link below and enjoy! This link should go live at 1:00 a.m. PST, November 14th.