Friday, March 30, 2012

A note to the adoptive family's loved ones...(part 1)

There is something weighing heavily on my mind. In fact, it has been weighing on my mind throughout this entire adoption. I know. I've spoken about it before. For every one of those posts that have touched upon it, I assure you there are 10 more that are drafted out on blogger or in my mind.


I read a post last night on a wonderful blogging friend's site. Candice, who is adopting from Russia. As I read her post, I felt like I had written it! And I think I did... almost word for word! I looked for the post today in my draft file and it seems it has disappeared. I likely deleted it upon the realization that I would never be able to 'tone' down the anger and negativity enough to post it.


Since she was able to capture my feeling so eloquently... With her permission, I would like to quote her post.

Three years ago if you had asked me what I thought about the orphan crisis in our world
I would not have had much to say.
Truthfully, I knew nothing about it
and if someone I knew had said to me, "I'm adopting"
I would most likely have said, "that's nice" and thought nothing more about it.
Today however, I have A LOT to say.
(as most of the people who see me on a regular basis can attest to, poor souls.)
Knowledge is a funny thing, isn't it?
The way it will sneak in there and change you.
In just a couple of years, my beliefs and my values have changed so freaking much
that I don't always feel like I am the same person.
I know things now, that I never dreamed could be happening.
And it makes things like paying $5 for a mocha
or worrying about where I buy my clothes seem really REALLY wrong.
It makes the years I spent acting and wanting with every little fiber of my being 
to tread the boards at the Stratford Festival
seem very inconsequential.
Wow.
That was a hard pill to swallow, let me tell you.
And it has made me think of family, and what constitutes a family, very very differently.

The range of reactions I've received to the knowledge that I am adopting have been varied 
to say the least.
I had a mom at the studio hand me a little pattern book and ask me to pick my favourite one
so that she can stitch it up for LB as her gift to us.
(Come on! How awesome is that?)
And then I hear of a mom at the studio who was "completely offended" that I would try and sell 
my fundraiser tshirts at the studio.
Offended?  Wow.  The seems really harsh.
There are plenty of offensive things in the world, 
but raising money to bring an orphan into a family is not something I would necessarily call offensive.
Maybe its just me.
I have received donations from people I barely know
and then had a co worker at the lodge say to me, 
"I don't understand why you'd be fundraising.  Shouldn't they make sure you have enough money 
to adopt before you start the process?"
(that was a fun one to respond to.  Sheesh)
I had an 8 yr old student hand me a wrinkled little envelope with $2.86 in it to 
"help bring home my baby"
(Melt my heart)
and I have family that have never even bothered to ask how the process is going.

And I get it, or rather, I am trying to get it.
I understand that my priorities may not be your priorities
and that what I see as a ridiculous expense, you see as a necessity.
And vice versa.
I question your desire to own an expensive car 
and you question my desire to spend thousands of dollars to bring a child over from Russia 
when I could 'just make one myself'.

Where am I going with all of this mumbo jumbo?
Not really sure.
Truthfully, I don't think I even have a point.
(Isn't that gloriously anti-climactic?)

I believe she does in fact have a point. Perhaps several of them. Let me elaborate on one.
People who are adopting have experienced an 'awakening'. The plight of the orphan has been placed into our hearts. When you have this knowledge, you can no longer turn a blind eye to the suffering of millions of children around the world. We become dedicated and passionately driven to change the situation, even if for just one child. I cannot explain enough how this consumes our every waken moment. 

Please humor me for a moment while I try to explain to you how this feels. 

I recall the 'aha' moment when I first opened my eyes to the orphan crisis. It was when I acknowledged that these children... the ones orphaned, abandoned, struggling to stay alive, could very easily have been my own children. We are lucky to be born in the Western world, but the tables very easily could have been turned. These are children. Children, just as precious as yours or mine. 

I cannot fathom the thought that my 9 year old would ever feel hunger so deeply that she sells her young, innocent 9 yr old body for a piece of stale bread. 

It makes me sick to think of my son going to bed not just hungry, but scared and alone with no one to tuck him in at night and assure him that everything will be okay. 

Just step into our world for a moment.

 Imagine what it would feel like for me to take your child away for a couple years. Place them on the streets to beg for food. Place them in abusive homes. Place them in orphanages where it's survival of the fittest, and you can call yourself lucky if you get one meal a day. Strip them of any sense of security they have ever had. No family. No home. No education. No hope for the future. 

What would you do to bring them back to 3 square meals a day, adequate health care, a safe, loving family and a future? 

How personally and emotionally charged would your journey become to get them home? 

Would it offend you if I came to your house for coffee and didn't ask you how your journey was going? 

Would it offend you if I didn't ask if there is any way I can help you bring your child home? 

Would it offend you if I declined your plea for help, or declined the opportunity to support your fundraising endeavours? 

Would it offend you if I not only openly failed to acknowledge the fact that you are simply trying to give your child a home, but treated it as if it were absolutely unnecessary and indulgent? 

Would it offend you if I asked why you would want to do this? 

Would it offend you if I asked you why you don't look for a different child in a different country... perhaps China?

Would it offend you if I told you that you shouldn't bother bringing your child home if you have to fundraise to do it - because obviously you cannot afford it? 

Imagine how your view of me would be?

Cold. 
Selfish.
Uncaring.

Now. I daresay that you think I'm being melodramatic, and this clearly is not the situation. Of course you would assist me if my child were to get kidnapped and be forced to live in such horrible conditions. Right? 

please.... Listen to me. 

This is my child. 
And this child is living in horrible conditions. 

This is how I feel. 
You don't have to understand it. 
If you care at all, you will take my word for it.  
This IS how I feel, and this is my journey to MY child. 

If you don't acknowledge it or support it - I will be deeply offended. I will never forget, not only the harsh words you said, but also the words you didn't say. These words and actions cut deeply. They are painful and they are ever lasting. Unfortunately, I already have too long a list of them carved out in my memory.  I fear they will never leave me.

I will try to forgive you and give you the benefit of the doubt. I will try to understand that you didn't realize the magnitude of your actions or lack of.  But here I am now... laying it all out in the open. Putting it out there in hopes that it will clear up any misunderstanding  you or I may have ever had... and in hopes that it will eliminate any in the future. 

Remember. 

I am putting every fiber of my being into 'giving an orphaned child a family'. 
Our family. 
Our child. 
I am not working towards going on some exotic cruise. 
I am not raising money to buy a hot air balloon. 

A child. 

An innocent child who needs a family and a future. 
It's that simple. 


If you would like to know how you can support your loved ones through the adoption process, please stay tuned for part 2, which I promise will be much more upbeat and positive!  

6 comments:

Hi from Ruth! said...

Hi Jo -
I'm struggling a bit with how to respond. As you know, we've adopted two children from Africa, so that perhaps gives me a perspective that others may not have. But I'm also in no way wanting to offend you by expressing differences, knowing that you hold these values so dear to your heart. I am totally ok if you choose not to publish my comment.

I guess I have at least a couple of problems with viewing adoption as 'giving an orphaned child a family.'

First, for me, if I really REALLy had that as my priority, if I was REALLY passionately driven to change the situation, I think those children (including mine) would have been infinitely better off if I had taken the many tens of thousands of dollars (a mortgage really) that we put into our adoptions and donated it to a carefully chosen non-profit organization in the country/region/village of my choice. Or maybe I could have moved there for a couple of years to see what I could do with that money to make a difference. Don't get me wrong - I don't regret doing what we did for a second, but alleviating the plight of orphans of the world was less a practical priority (given how we chose to spend our money) than was my selfish desire for these children to become ours.

Second, it's usually OTHER people who commend me for taking in orphaned children...never, ever ME talking about it. When I hear other people say that to/about me, it feels somehow offensive or patronizing (towards my children) that I would 'deign' to help out an orphaned child(ren). To be honest, it makes me cringe a little; I hate those conversations and try to change the topic as quickly as possible. I never, ever want my African-born children to hear that we were wonderful to adopt them and to give their orphaned selves a family/home. Is it technically true that I gave two orphaned children a home that they otherwise would not have had? Yes. And they were starving...near death...so if ever the shoe fit... But they already had a family before me and maybe I could have prevented some of the tragedy and loss and trauma in their lives had I put my money to better use. I think the ideal scenario is that kids could have stayed with their first family in their country of origin (or with other family/community given their circumstances) - I'm a distant second or third best alternative.

Third, I don't personally see other people as cold or uncaring because they didn't support our adoption. I think they had different priorities than me and that for whatever reason, this was the journey that we were on...the others were meant for a different journey that I probably won't understand and they therefore didn't have the capacity for understanding how personal and private our decision to adopt was. We chose to go into quite a lot of debt rather than fundraise for our adoption because of this perspective (though I don't have an issue with people fundraising...it was just our view for our situation).


(to be continued)

Hi from Ruth! said...

(the continuation)

Finally, and this is a pretty real thought for me given that I'm in the trenches of raising my not-born-to-me children and given that sometimes I'm not thinking altogether altruistically about/towards them ('cause frankly, it's just darn hard). I have never talked about adopting our kids for the sake of giving orphaned children a home because I don't want my brain to think about it that way. And the reason I don't want my brain to think about it that way is because I never want that kind of attitude to 'leak' out of me, and the reason I never want that attitude to leak out of me is because I never want my children to feel like they 'owe' me for having adopted them and bringing them out of destitution and into a new family and life. Believe me, when my kids begin to complain about not having enough clothing, or leaving clothes carelessly on the floor (ie. general sense of entitlement), it would be easy to remind them of where they came from and how they had absolutely nothing. But I actively try NOT to have the 'plight of the orphan' in my heart when I'm doing the day-to-day grind of raising my kids. This is my perspective: They don't owe me. They didn't ask for this 'new and better' life. They deserved to be able to stay in their country of origin and, if not with their birth family, then with others in their extended family/community. It's me who was un-regrettably selfish in wanting to bring them here, who wanted to add to my family, who wanted more children and who happened to have enough to give them. And in the process I have learned (and have seen and witnessed) unbearably more than I ever wanted to know about the poverty that exists in places/families throughout the world and that knowledge has changed me and many of the things I do. I have way more perspective on the world's orphan crisis now than ever before, but I will choose not to have my children bear that weight on their shoulders...as if they were the lucky ones, as if they owe me some kind of debt of gratitude.

Jo, I'm speaking off the cuff in saying all of this. I don't think that I'm right and you're wrong...I don't even know that we'd be all that far apart in our views if we were to sit down and talk about it all. I suspect we think a little differently from each other, and I know that this discussion is common amongst adoptive/adopting families. It's a hard and sensitive issue and I worry even as I get ready to press 'send' on my comment that you will find me offensive and unforgivable.

I do so hope that you'll continue this discussion and pull as much out of it as possible. You're prompting much thought in me, and forcing me to figure out why I think the way I do.

Oh, I hope you're ok at this very moment. Thanks for letting me talk...and again, feel free not to publish this comment.

Ruth

Denise said...

This is a very brave, absolutely true post. Today my daughter cried all the way home in the car because she was thirsty. And all I could think was "how many mothers in the world are listening to this cry, but can do nothing?". Adoption changes everything about you, and it is a change I would wish on everyone! I recently texted a friend who rarely asks about our process, but when she does it ends in pat answers. "She'll be home before you know it." "Kids heal well, she will be fine" Finally I said to her - imagine this is D (her beautiful 18 month old), and he is in another country being looked after in an orphanage. And you can do NOTHING to get him home. I wonder if she had ever thought of it that way? There is no explaining how the children of our hearts are born there, but once they are - they are ours as truly as if they were born from our womb.

I hope, though, that you do forgive the hurts people give. You might not entirely forget, but to not forgive only ends up hurting you and those around you. You don't have the time or place for that in your life - you need all that room in you heart for the love to give to ALL your children <3

Candice said...

Wow. Such beautiful truth to this post my friend. Well said. (and thank you for finishing my thoughts so eloquently)
xo

'Jo' said...

Ruth, I would like to just give you a big 'ol hug right now. I very much appreciate your heart filled response.
2 things bother me about this post. The word 'orphan' and the fact that I'm conveying I have a saviour complex.
I want you to know that I 100% agree with your comment.
I struggled with writing and publishing this post because this issue is very complex. One thing is true - I am very deeply saddened that any child should suffer in any way. I sponsor children and organizations that ultimately enable children to stay in their birth families. We know... that this is the ideal situation. Being adopted to a family in a different county is not ideal, but a last resort. Ugg. I'm not going to get into it... because really, you have said everything I do believe.
I would never, ever show this post to my children bio or adopted. Nor would I feel that I saved them or that they owe me etc. I hate to say that I had to 'dumb' it down... but yeah, I felt that it had to be written this way to convey the message to the intended audience.
I realize that this is my journey... (and we are basically remortgaging to get there). I don't think everyone I love should actively join me etc... however, I do think that if any one issue is so important to me, it should be supported by those who are close to me as family or otherwise. I am not asking these people to run a marathon or anything - but that they in the very least acknowledge it and not speak negatively about it.

I'm sorry if this post in anyway offended you... Truly, I am with you on this.

Denise... my heart breaks for you almost daily. I could not imagine being in your position. I am very lucky that I can take my daughter home almost right after referral. I would just go crazy if I couldn't. It drives me bonkers just even thinking that my future daughter... is real and is out there somewhere. I very quickly change my course of thoughts when I start to wonder who she is, where she is... and if she is thirsty. I hope and pray that you will be able to bring her home soon. xox

Hi from Ruth! said...

Hey Jo -
Thanks for your comment back, and for your email. I haven't had time to respond yet to either, and don't even have much time right now. But I just wanted to say that you didn't offend me in the slightest...it's nice to be able to express different viewpoints and to also discover that we're likely not that far off from each other anyway! I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your replies to me!!
I must run, but thanks again.

Blessings and hugs,

Ruth