Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Lately there have been some heavier topics on my mind...clouds entering my perpetual state of happiness if you will. I've been thinking a lot about Charlie's story, and how we will frame it (especially the sad parts) for him so that it's not too painful. Obviously the truth will always be at the center of everything we tell him, but I so want to protect him from the negatives...and mostly from the negative perceptions of people who don't know us.

I read an article a while back about positive adoption language. It was written by an adoptive mom who meant well, but some of the comments that were left for her were harsh. Quite frankly, they were hard to read, but they also really got me thinking. I can totally see some of the points made in the responses. I can understand how telling a child his first mother "made an adoption plan" for him because she loved him would leave him with some confusion about love. Young children take everything literally, so I get what some of these adoptees were trying to say. Although, I don't necessarily agree that to frame a child's story in a positive light is to sugar coat it in a way that is inappropriate. After reading some of these comments, I am left feeling sad, and wondering, "What is the right thing to say?" As Charlie's mommy, how do I explain it properly?

The sad fact is that pain and loss are central to every adoption story, but is it wrong for us adoptive parents to want to handle our children gently where their adoption stories are concerned? The reailty of some of the comments is that they don't consider the alternative...and they certainly don't offer a "better" solution to the language/terminology/viewpoint they are naysaying. The point is, this just has me thinking a lot about what we will tell him when he's old enough to understand. I really don't know the answer to that. Right now we tell him parts of his story all the time, and I talk to him about adoption almost every day...but right now I'm just talking, practicing for the future I guess. Right now it doesn't matter the way it will someday, when he can understand.

Then there is the age-old balancing act of being a mom with the rest of life. School starts again soon and I'm nervous. Nervous about being away from my baby for two [very] long days every week. I realize it could be worse, but I'm not going to see him at all two days a week and I'm really not sure I'm OK with that fact. I'm also nervous about being able to study and continue to be the kind of student I've been for the last several years. I would love it if I could simply be with him for this first year, but in the long run that isn't really what I want either. The thought of putting school on hold, even for a year, gives me an entirely different kind of stomach ache. And all this begs the question, "In fulfilling my dream of motherhood, have I lost myself?" The answer to that question is inevitably yes...or at least I have lost some former parts of myself.

But is that bad? Is it not appropriate that some of the old me should be cast away as I make room for a new little person? I have always been a very involved, very active person with a lot of hobbies and interests. People talk about being bored, but I rarely have times when I can't find something to do that interests me. And now...well, I'm finding that things like gardening, and writing in my paper journals, and keeping up with my other blog, and taking non-baby photographs...they are falling by the wayside. And yet, at the end of the day I feel satisfied that my time that day was well spent. I will never reach a point where I look at my child and wonder if I spent enough time with him, or held him enough, because the answer to that will always be yes. To me, that is as it should be, but what about having a sense of self outside of being a mom? Certainly there is value added to the child by having a mom who is self-interested and self-involved to an extent. I think the key here (as with most things in life) is balance...but how do you strike a healthy balance, and how do you know that it is healthy, as opposed to having the scale tipped too much in one direction or the other?

Then there are my thoughts about racism and how to handle that as Charlie gets older. We are fortunate in that we are in a very diverse area where there are many "different" families and resources available to us, but there are still some hard truths here that we must all learn to face as our family grows. I'm in no way ready to tackle this topic in a manner that will give it fair play on my blog, but I do think about it a fair amount, and somewhere in there, I'm trying to make it all make sense. One thing that having Charlie has taught me in a short time is that being "different" brings the reality of racism in our society to the surface. I've been trying to find some good books on the topic so any suggestions would be appreciated. These thoughts leave me with the question, "Is my love enough to protect him?" To some degree I think it is, but in time, I will also have to teach him how to handle this particular evil of our world with a sense of pride, self confidence, and humor. That amongst all the other "normal" growing up lessons and difficulties. Wow, now that is a tall order if ever there was one!

All of the above having been said...or typed...there is still such tremendous joy that floods my heart every time I look into the eyes of my sweet little boy. It is such a gift to be "the one" for him. To be able to make him smile and giggle like no other, and to be the one who can comfort him when he's upset. To be "Mommy," well...there is nothing sweeter or more rewarding!


Rachel said...


Thank you for your honesty and your thoughts. Obviously I am not yet there, but I have already imagined the struggles I will have balancing "me me" with "mommy me." Do we, as women, have to relinquish who we are to be good mommies? I hope not - I think not. I have great friends who seem to find the balance. But it takes time.

Ultimately, I believe a happy/balanced mommy will equal a happy/balanced child. Obviously we can't always make our happines the priority, but if we NEVER make it a priority, doesn't that do some disservice to our children?

Anyway...maybe someday I'll have a better answer for you. But right now, I just want to say "Thank you," and send you some encouraging thoughts :)


BB said...

Wow. Heavy post, my friend!! It really got me thinking...

I went and read the article, which wasn't earth shattering at all, but the comments made me stumble! I admit that a lot of times I just push all that aside for another day. Certainly I like to push aside the pain of R's birthfamily... because it sucks. It sucks that this beautiful thing that makes my life worth living, started with such immense pain (and I am sure that pain lives every day). But it is human nature to not want to focus on things that are hard or painful.

those comments made me think the same way you did... can the "she loved you so much.." make a child confused about love? What is the right answer then? What is the right thing to say? You made a GREAT point that they don’t offer another solution, better phrasing. It is kind of hypocritical that some comments were saying that a child is “abandoned” but that “birth” family is offensive. To me, those things are contradictory.

Maybe it isn't that simple. Maybe the phrase isn't "she loved you so much she made an adoption plan" or whatever terminology you want to use. Really, that isn't it. Birth mothers don't place because they love their children. they place because they can't be the kind of parent they want to be- for whatever reason BUT they love that child so they find someone who can be the kind of parent they regrettably can't. Obviously that isn't always the case, but you know what I am saying. (I know YOU know. Sometimes I hate it that I feel like I have to qualify everything with "not all situations" because I don’t want to upset anyone!!)
Maybe, too there just isn’t “positive adoption language” that can be positive for all members of the triad. Again, the feelings of all mothers and fathers are NOT as important as the feelings of our precious little babies. EVERY term in adoption can somehow be twisted and turned into something offensive to someone. My mother was right, you can’t please everyone all the time.

I have several friends that were adopted at birth. Many of them I didn't even know were adopted until I started on this journey and shared it with them. They are, for lack of a better term, very well adjusted and not just for an "adopted child" but just in general.

My one friend read the "twenty things.." book and it pissed her right off. Her comment is that people that are happy and healthy and confident in who they are, don't go around writing books (or searching and commenting on articles) because they are too busy living their lives (and nobody wants to read the book that just says "i'm doing fine")

So, there ARE people out there that don't have issues with their adoption story, I believe on all sides of the triad. Not in every case, maybe not in most cases, but some people REALLY struggle with adoption issues. But, I do think that it is much like everything else in life-- kids (really people) are different and process things differently. Some kids don't handle their parents' divorce well, others are unscathed. It depends on the child, on the personality.

I'm totally shooting from the hip here and learning what I think as I type, (good post BTW) but lately I think I have been thinking too much about how I want R to think/feel about her adoption story and I am going to start focusing on how I want her to think/feel about herself. I think if I can instill confidence in her and she is happy and secure, she will undoubtedly feel confident and secure in adoption story just by default. Obviously I will have to be truthful and open with her, but the goal shouldn’t be to make her be happy and secure with her adoption story, it should be to make her happy and secure with who she is as a WHOLE, of which adoption is a part. How to do that? I do not know.

BB said...

(I exceeded the character limit!! haha!)

My extremely long comment stems from your link to the article, along with several others recently. I just feel like with the internet so accessible, people are over-analyzing every little thing too much. I could literally take any blog post any article and comment on adoption and find a reason to be offended or upset about it. But I don’t. I think people are well intended and we can’t afford to be so nitpicky. I went through this whole adoption process with the very best of intentions and went out of my way to make sure that everything was ethical and “right.” I never mean to offend anyone and it is only human nature to sometimes see adoption from only my angle as it is now. I cannot constantly be putting myself in the shoes of a birth parent… because I am not one and the MOST important thing to me is R.
It is hard to balance and to know the right thing. Do you talk about adoption every day or will that make it too BIG of a deal? Do you talk about it casually or will that make your child think you don't care or don’t think it is an important part of who you are??
In short (haha) I think you are doing all you can and once Charlie’s personality starts to really come out, you will be able to adapt your story to suit him and his personality. You always inspire me, Melba!!

KLTTX said...

I am realtively new to your blog and wanted to say first of all that Charlie is gorgeous. With that out of the way, many parts of this post hit home with me.

We struggle with how to tell Samuel his story. We do not have contact with his birthmom (her choice) and we do not know how to tell him the story without all of the really sad parts (that he will not be old enough to hear for until maybe his teenage years).

On the issue of mommy vs. me time, I too struggle with that (as does every mom, I think). I have an older son that is 6 and I think that when he was about 3 - 4, I finally started taking time for myself (exercising, etc.). Since we've brought the baby home, I have not done much for myself. I really need to make time for stuff that is important to me but being away from him in the evenings (I work full time) is too hard right now. I hope to sort that out sooner rather than later.

hope548 said...

I can relate to a lot of this. I have sort of given up some of myself, and though I am happy to do this for my boy, I have long been searching for the right balance for myself, my husband, and our son. It's not easy when you are so crazy about being a mom.

I was finishing up grad school when our son came home and it was very challenging going to class and studying, but I fought through it and now it's all over and I have much more spare time. You will find ways to fit everything in because all of it is worth it.

You do have quite a challenge in finding the best way to talk about Charlie's story to him, but I know with all of the thought you put into it, you will find the best ways to lovingly help him understand as he gets older.

Evergreen said...

Melba, very interesting post, and heartfelt. I still need to read the article, but I wanted to put down my thoughts about your post first. Regarding trans-racial adoption, you may be interested in the blog . They are waiting, planning a transracial adoption, and A does a lot of processing and exploring about race. Her thoughts may be helpful, and she may be able to direct you to other resources.

Talking about the birth story. Well, we've gotten some practice, as EVERYONE wants to know the story. Of course it is edited, but it makes me think about the other parts of the story and how much I may want her to know. Do we have to tell all? We have an open adoption, and I suppose how much we tell depends to some degree on how much/how long her birthparents maintain contact with us, and what choices they make with their lives. We like them as people, which is really helpful for telling the story. But their lifestyle choices that lead them to adoption, not so much, and I wonder if she will need all those details to understand her adoption.

A book I really enjoyed was "Raising Adopted Children", and it had some good ideas for talking about adoption, as well as what kids of different ages understand and tune into about adoption. You might check it out if you haven't yet.

And about being away during the day. It sucks, trust me. But it is getting easier, as I know when I come home, she remembers me, and remembers how to nurse, and I still feel connected to her. I've been getting a little too much "me time".

Evergreen said...

Ok, I had to stop reading those comments on that article. I do agree that the "loved you so much" topic needs to be said/explained carefully. The other stuff ... maybe I am really just a self-centered, baby-stealing misogynist ... is that how my daughter's birthparents feel about me? They thanked us many times for adopting her, so I don't think they feel that way right now. Down the road ... I can't say.

But one thing those comments did say to me: continue to have respect and appreciation for my daughter's biological parents. For them as people, not their choices, and communicate that respect to my daughter, to them, and to others who ask about them.

TXMom2B said...

We are going to say that she loved him so much that she was able to make a major sacrifice for him. Hopefully, with us teaching him about Jesus, that will make sense in time. Love is complicated, and it leads different people to do different things. Like on the MTV show 16 and Pregnant, the moms on there all showed love in different ways for their child. They made different sacrifices. Of course, then I have to explain how she loved him so much but doesn't know him at all (closed adoption) and how it wasn't him but any baby who would have been placed for adoption...ugh. There is no easy way and no way to guarantee that it won't bring hurt. I'm already thinking that our yearly Adoption Day celebration will include a visit for Andrew to a counselor.

Yeah, I'm totally with you on the whole "who am I now that I'm a mom" thing. I want to go back to school for some postbac work since my degree is now just about useless for me, but how, and when? If we are able to save up enough money to pay for it, do we use it to adopt a sibling for Andrew instead? I agree that it's a balance, and there will never be a completely right answer. I know I don't want to get my whole identity from my family, but I'll never regret my sacrifices for them. I just don't know what that balance looks like yet. And, as soon as I do, the answer will likely change as he gets older, anyway!

Malloryn said...

Melba, I'm going to have to bookmark this entry. While we're not at this stage, the adoption story has also been on my mind.

My DH has been more open than I have on telling people the background of our situation. Granted, we're fortunate in that there's nothing traumatic that needs to be hidden... nonetheless, I'm leery about telling everyone the whole story. When I told DH, he misinterpreted this as me being ashamed of the baby being adopted. I think I was able to convey that it's not the case AT ALL, but he's still not on the same page. He feels it would be better for the child to come to understand that there are people in the world who will judge others based on things like being adopted, and that they need to learn how to stand up for themselves. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone who has not done even a percentage of the reading (and fretting!) that I have. I think in the end, we'll work towards a happy medium... he has become more cognizant of what he shares about the story.

I can't comment on the mom/life struggles, but some kind of balance is the best you can hope for! It's probably something you'll figure out in about 18 years or so ;)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

Jamie said... much to think about and take in. i have to marinate in this for a while.......
i read the article....and the comments and while my first reaction is to get upset and feel defensive ~ the reality of it is that we are all entitled to our own feelings. and it gave me much to think about in regards to the way i will introduce milo to his own story. i agree with a lot of what bri said....maybe we all just won't agree on what is "right" and what is "wrong", we just have to do what we feel is the right thing our own very unique family.

i think it is extremely important to maintain our individualism while being a mom.....actually being milo's mother has inspired me to be a better "person" in general and in turn has lit the fire in me to achieve some personal goals i have been working on for a long time. i feel that not losing ourselves in the role of mother is, in turn, being a better mother for our children. it teaches them that it's okay to love yourself and do things for yourself rather than just doing everything for everyone else. :)but....i can only imagine how difficult it would be to leave that sweet little baby face even for a minute! :)

i've read a book called "inside transracial adoption" by gail steinberg and beth hall. it was really wonderful and i think you would really enjoy it. i know you've already done a lot of research on the topics you will face being a family of different races and i think this would be another resource you could refer to. i did a book report on it and would even be glad to share that with you if you'd like. :)

melba ~ you are a wonderful mama and charlie is so lucky to have a family who loves him so much and is so aware of the needs he may have dealing with sensitive issues. :)

Debbie B said...

You tell him the truth, is the simple answer. Right now is the time you tell it over and over again to get it to where you want it to be verbally.

I think we all lose a part of ourselves as you said when we became a mommy. But the same thing happened when we became wives too. It's about growing and changing. And a lot of balancing. Even the racial issues I'm learning I need to find a balance on. That's what I'm currently trying to understand in our own family.
Sadly no our love is not enough to protect our children. And that's why I'm trying to learn now how to best help my child understand racism when it comes and be there to hold her when it hurts and I can't do anything about it. Balance of knowing when to do and when to let go. I've got a lot to learn.

I'm Chocolate You're Vanilla is a good one (I'm reading it now).
E-mail me if you want. I have a list of some more at home.

Debbie B said...

Meant to elaborate more on telling the story but kept reading your post.
It's always hard to know how to share the things he needs to know vs what you know. You don't want to make his birth parents seem like saints but you don't want them sounding like criminals either. (I don't know their story at all just one extreme to the next)

All I've ever heard on when to share what is that when he asks he's ready. You still might have to leave out bits that are too mature for him but he's ready for the basic information. Like if they were addicted to drugs you could just tell them they were very sick and couldn't care for any child.

And that article, yeah that's my paper. I could add so many comments on it as it's also the agency we started with...

zoomdog! said...

Hey Melba!
Ayize and I have a slew of books that I can't think of off the top of my head (and he's asleep in his room so the bookshelf is currently off limits LOL!) -- but one great one we have been reading a lot lately is "Whoever You Are" (I think that's the title!) by Mem Fox. He asks to read it at least two or three times a week! It's a really sweet board book about tolerance -- hope this helps! Take care!!
Zooms! :)

Anonymous said...

When I read your post I didn't think I had time to read the article, but after reading the comments I think I'll need to find time to go read it. My 2 cents is that it's natural to be pensive about this topic now, which Charlie is still too young to understand anything you tell him about his story. This is the right time to practice your words and ponder the right phrasing so that when he's older and can understand, it won't be as difficult for you. You're doing great!

Anonymous said...

I read this post a few days ago and wanted to comment on it but all I can say is Charlie is a beautiful child.