Saturday, November 26, 2011

remembering their mother

My two little girls are my daughters and they are also someone else's daughters.  My girls have two mothers.  I think of their mother every day.  I look at them and I think of her.  I look into their beautiful faces and I see how they look like her in the slant of their eyes, in the color of their skin, in their high cheek bones.  I see her beauty glowing in them.  I mourn her for them and one day I will mourn her with them.  She should be raising her little girls.  She should never have died.  She died a completely preventable death giving birth to them two years ago.  In another country, she would have lived.  Maybe even if she had reached a hospital in time in the biggest near-by city she might of lived, though I doubt it.  My girls were meant to be her girls.  They were supposed to be giggling for her, hugging her, kissing her.  She was supposed to be teaching them to speak their first words, to make fufu, to pound sombe.  She was supposed to celebrate their first steps, encourage their love for music and dance, and watch them grow.  They were supposed to call her mama, not me.

We have been redoing our life insurance policy lately and I have been thinking about what would happen if we both died.  I hope that never happens, but if it did someone else would raise and love my kids.  I would want that of course.  I would want them to be loved, understood, cared for, and accepted.   I also don't think I would care if they called their new guardians mama or daddy.  Because honestly, that won't matter.  What will matter is that they are loved.  And I know that my role as their mother, as their first mother, will be special, life-giving, unique and a part of who they are.  They could never forget me,  their first mother, and no one could ever completely replace me either.

In the same spirit, I don't ever expect my girls to forget their first mother.  And I don't think I will ever be able to replace her, nor do I want to.   The woman who gave them life, who watched over them and guarded them as they grew for 8-9 months.  The woman who is a part of them and them of her.  She is a very important part of our lives, and always will be.  I will never replace her, nor do I want to.  Yes, I am their mama, but so is she, and she was first and most important because she gave them life and is a part of them.  We are tied together, bonded together, her and I, in love for two little girls who were never meant to be without her and her without them.  

So, I try to do things to remember her, even though they may not be aware of who she is in their lives right now.  It's important to me to start the memories, the openness and acceptance now, when they are young.  On their birthday, I lit a candle and let it burn all day.  I would glance over at it throughout the day and think of her.  Somehow, I felt her presence with us.  It's a hard day and a special day.  Utter pain and loss, and brilliant life.  Her death, their first breath.  Suffering and joy.  Sacred.

Though she wasn't able to choose us to be her girls' guardians upon her death, I hope she approves.  I hope she knows we love them so much and will never forget her.

In remembrance of her, my daughters' mother.


Friday, November 25, 2011

what every child deserves....

Something that strikes me again and again about international adoption is the very big difference in most children after they get home.  It is incredible.  I saw it in our girls.  They came to us from a good foster care situation (they had lived in the orphanage for 5 months and then foster care for 3 months), but there was still a big change when they moved home with us over the next few months.  They gained weight, they quickly started crawling then walking, they were more settled and happy.  I have seen this happen even more so in other adoptive families that I have been able to know over the past year, especially when  the transition is right from orphanage to new family.

A lot of it is belonging to a family, obviously this does amazing things for the child's emotional well-being, ability to attach, form trusting relationships, and develop.  So, yes (a big YES), every child deserves a family.

But you know what?  I think more than a family even, every child deserves to not live in dire poverty.  Millions of children around the world live in dire poverty with their families and they are struggling to survive.  Some of these children are relinquished for adoption (or abandoned and then adopted) and then they are taken in by wealthier families in the developed world where they are love, fed, educated, clothed, and cherished.  And guess what?  These children?  They thrive.  They grow, they smile, they play, they bloom and blossom.  Now, this is not to say that they don't carry of the effects of the poverty (and/or abandonment, lack of attachment, institutionalization, etc.) with them into their new lives (and this can be profound).  They do carry it with them.  Their pasts are not wiped clean and the effects of poverty (abandonment, chronic malnutrition, abuse...) erased.  But overall, these little ones are changed.  Yes, by families that love them and that are committed to them and their recovery and that claim them as their own, but also because their lives are so much better.  They have food, clothes, clean water, healthcare, education, quality medicine, consistent caregivers, and so on.

Every child deserves these things.  Food, clean water, healthcare, education, quality medicine, consistent caregivers, family.  Every child deserves to not live in dire poverty that threatens their lives.

Sometimes I look at my girls, and I looks at the kids left behind in Congo.  Not only at the orphanage, but the kids who have families, but are in feeding centers, who are suffering because of dire poverty.  It's hard not to think, oh, if only I could find homes for all the kids.  Look how well they will do, look how great all the adoptive kids are doing that were adopted this past year.  Too bad all the kids at the orphanage can't be adopted.  It's easy to start thinking like this.  Adoption dramatically changes the lives of the one or two children (or three) that are adopted.  It feels great to see those kids doing so well!  It is great.  Yet.

Yet, I can't lose sight of the fact that what most of the children in Congo who are suffering need is not to be adopted, they need to not live in poverty.  They don't need a family (they have families).  They need food, or education, or medical care.  (If they had those things, maybe they wouldn't have been abandoned in the first place).  What we are working towards is alleviating the effects of poverty, to raise the general quality of life of the children in Congo.  Most children in Congo have families.  And a lot of those families can't take care of their children.  They can't feed them three times a day.  They can't afford to send them to school. They can't afford to pay their doctors fees.  They can't afford to buy them medicine.  They can't afford to dress them.

But they don't need new families (that have all of this).  They need access to affordable food and clothes, access to affordable (or free) education, access to affordable, quality healthcare and medicine, access to clean water, and on and on.

At Save the Children Orphanage in Eastern Congo, most of the children that live there have families.  Because of their destitute poverty, the fathers or other family members couldn't take care of them (formula is very expensive) after their mothers died in childbirth so they sent them to the orphanage to keep them alive.

One of my dreams is to try to move to a model at the orphanage where the children move back to their families by age 2 instead of age 5.  We'll see.  The hard part is that the families are still in dire poverty.

Now, I'm not writing this post to say I am against adoption.  Obviously that is not the case as we have two children that are adopted.  There are children that need families that do not have them and adoption provides a family for those children.  (And yes, we can't solve poverty overnight, and so in the meantime, there are children that need homes.)  It's not about those kids (well, maybe it is a little bit).  It's about all the rest.

It's about the kids that were living in extreme poverty and were relinquished for adoption because their families couldn't take care of them anymore.  It's about the children and their families living in extreme poverty around the world.  It's about the children that are abandoned by desperate family members because their situation are so extreme that they couldn't care for them anymore.  It's about trying to alleviate poverty that destroys families, communities, and children's lives.

It's about working towards making the world a place where adoptions are no longer needed because families can take care of their children.  It's about working towards a world where mothers don't die in birth anymore and their babies are not taken to institutions to survive.  It's about working towards a world where these same babies can grow up and go back to their families and be sent to school, be a part of their families, be fed and loved and cared for.

It's about a world where all children have the same opportunities, the same access to food, water, education, family, healthcare, that our kids do right here.

One day at a time.

There are so many wonderful organizations working in eastern DRC doing amazing work.  Here are just a few of the 100s.  There are large humanitarian organizations like Food for the Hungry, Mercy Corps, World Vision, CRS, Tearfund and many more that do large scale aid and development projects that touch thousands and thousands of lives.  There are small organizations like HEAL Africa and Women for Women that are working hard to improve individual lives of women and their families.  There are even smaller grassroots organizations like our friends who help street kids by taking them off the streets and transitioning them back home, like our other friends who take in women in crisis and give them skills and training, like more friends who work with traumatized women in war zones, and other friends who start homes to give women a hope and a future.

There is hope.  There are ways to help make change happen.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

a thankful day

Right this minute I'm thankful for many things.

I'm very thankful I am able to do work in DRC, in a small quiet way.  I'm thankful, that together with others, we are making a difference in children's lives.  Giving them a chance at life.  There is so much to be done, there is still a lot that needs work, and more can be improved.  That is for sure.  But tonight, I'm thankful that for most of the children at the Save the Children orphanage, their lives are improved.

Tonight, there could have been 2 women with 40+ children.  Instead there are 4 women with 30 children.  During the day there are 5 women with 30 children.  There is milk for the older children.  There is formula for the babies.  There could have been 2 women with 40 babies and children.  They could be watering down formula and only giving it three times a day to the babies under 6 months old.  It's not like that anymore.  The kids smile.  The babies don't sleep two to a crib anymore, they are too big.  The one year olds are pulling to stand and starting to walk.  They are held.  It's different.  It's better.  And it will continue to get better.

I'm thankful for the gift God has given me, to serve these children, to tell their stories, to give them hope.

It is a good day.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday Sweet Girls!

Ellie and Mia had their second birthday on the 9th of this month.  They were so excited (mostly because their oldest sister was so hyped up about the gifts she had picked out for them, small pink travel pillows....hmmm)!  Last year we celebrated their first birthday in Congo with our neighbors/house mates and other friends in the area.  It seems so long ago really.  They have grown up so much in the past year.  Who knew that those sweet little babies we met almost two years ago would grow into such happy, active (very very active), energetic, and big girls?

When we met the girls they were 3 1/2 months old, and smiling up a storm at us.  We pretty much loved them right then and there.  If we had been living in the states at the time of the adoption they would have come home to us at 18 months (as our adoption took foooorrrreeevvveeerr), but as we were living overseas, they moved home with us at 8 months old and we waited out the rest of the proceedings in country.  I know we are extremely fortunate in that we have known them so long and were able to bring them home a lot earlier than a lot of people bring their kiddos home.  Another great part about living overseas while adopting is we were able to get to know some of their family in Congo.  I am so very glad we were able to.  I don't want to share in depth about their family here, as it is their family, but I do want to say that we (as per norm in that area of congo) were taller than all of them.  Though probably above height for their tribal group, we still were much taller.  So, we figured the girls would be average height.  We were wrong.  They are tall!  Ellie especially is a very strong, tall girl.  She is 100% in all areas on the charts.  Mia is about 75%.  Our second daughter, Isla, is little for her age (surprising, since we are both tall), and so when they are all three together, they look the same age, and actually Ellie is the tallest and heaviest of them all!  So, that has been fun as it might have been hard to be on the short side with tall parents and siblings.  Sometimes I wonder if the height difference (b/w them and their family in Congo) may be because of chronic malnutrition (through generations) that has led to chronic stunting (overall), or if it just genetics.

On the comment I made above about their activity levels.  It seems that as they age they just get more and more and more energy.  It is incredible.  Ellie loves to just bounce around the house (and can she jump!).  Or they love to run circles around the dining room/kitchen, laughing, giggling and chasing each other.  They love to push objects all over (who needs toys?!) or ride small bikes.  I'm thankful my husband is an especially active person.  We have already said he can take the three girls for jogs and I will stay home with little miss Isla (who is on the very low low end of energy levels....running? who needs it!).  I will always remember about two weeks before we left Congo finding Mia climbing up the metal grates of our dinging room window and yelling "hi mama!" at me from outside when she was half way up and quite high!  I still am trying to adjust myself to their need (really three of the four need it) of physical activity to keep in good spirits.  I have to force myself out of the desire to go hole up under the covers with a good book and instead take them outside or to the park where they love to run or scare me half to death by climbing up play structures meant for 7 year olds (or taking off in 3 different directions) all while Isla sits on the swing for an hour and watches them all.  Playing hard means sleeping hard though, so that's grand!

And finally, they are such happy happy kids.  Mia is exuberant joy.  When she isn't tired or hungry, she is full of laughter and mischievous giggles.  She loves to put her fingers in my hair, in Isla and Nat's hair or on Mike's (well, bald) head and suck her finger.  She is very cuddly and loves the ergo for the more emotional moments.  She is littler than Ellie and loves to have Ellie tackle her and play "blanket" (but then of course she can't get up and starts screaming :).    She also is the supreme "grabber" of the family. No matter how well you guard that precious toy, if she wants it, watch out!   She sneaks in, grabs it faster than you can blink and tears off giggling as quick as she can while the rest scream behind her.
Ellie watches and observes and has the best belly laugh you can imagine.  She gives awesome bear hugs that fill you up with love.  She is very loyal.  She loves books and is a champ doing her nebulizer treatment and reading book after book after book.  She has always been the more insecure of the two and we try to be careful with transitions and routine.  She loves to dance and loves her daddy best of all.

Happy birthday sweet girls.  We love you very very much.

Mia and Ellie, two years old

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A great post, please check it out!

Addendum:  I meant to add a brief story as to why this post touched me.  I was driving our car today when my oldest daughter (who is almost five years old) said to me, "mommy, I see a kid in every car we pass!"  I thought it a bit of a strange comment because as far as I could see plenty of the cars just had adults in them. When I asked her to explain more she said, "It's because all the adults were once kids, so I see the kids!".  Then I read the post above and I realized that am the parents of two adoptees who will one day be adult adoptees (I knew that already, but somehow it touched me more today).  They may have different and varying opinions about adoption, their adoptions, and why they were adopted.  I want to listen to adult adoptees now, as much as I can, so that as my children grow, I will be there to listen to, learn from, and support them in their own journeys as adoptees.  I appreciate the author of this blog for this reason (and others).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

getting an orphan

I suppose a lot of you, upon reading my title for this post, think that what follows will be about adopting or about UNICEF's definition of orphan and what I think about all of the above.   And though I'm sure I could write a good long post on that topic, that is not what this post is about.

Tonight I had a conversation with a friend and heard sad news about one of the older children who have aged out of the orphanage.  I still need to confirm the news, but it reminded me that the story I heard is true for many orphans in Congo (at least the area I was in).

Here is the story of one of our friends, who is now a grown woman.  She calls herself an orphan (often in that area, a child is an orphan if either parent is dead, esp. the mother).  Her mother was unable to care for her since the time she was  little girl and her father had long abandoned them both.  She was sent to live with a relatives family.  They took her in for awhile.  She was basically a slave in their household, working for the family and not being sent to school.  She then was sent to another family; she was beat and again was the slave in the house and not sent to school.  This continued until she came of age and she married.  She now has children of her own and her own "orphans" that she takes care of--they are her relatives children.  But she has decided to break the cycle of mistreatment, neglect, abuse and slavery that she lived in as a child.  All the children in her house go to school, the "orphans" included.  Some go in the morning and some go in the afternoon.  They all work in the home. They all haul water, they all help take care of the younger children, they all cook.

It wasn't uncommon for me to hear from other people I knew who would say, "I need an orphan, or I need a girl or I'm going to the village to get an orphan".  Then the person would go to the village and bring back a child to work in their home.  Sometimes money would be exchanged.  In other words, the child would be sold into slavery.  If the child "lucked out" then he or she might be sent to school.

The Save the Children orphanage only keeps children until they are age 4 to 5.  Then they are sent back to their fathers or other family members.  The families are from all over, sometimes they are from a weeks walk away.  As you can imagine, it is nearly impossible to have oversight over the quality of care the children receive after they leave the orphanage, especially the ones that live far away.  Some are not heard from again.  Some are very neglected and malnourished.  Some are sold into slavery to be household servants.  The "lucky" ones are the ones who stay with the family and are given some basic level of care, the lucky ones are wanted and loved.  We then pay their school fees with the idea that education is one area that may be able to change the life of that child.  Especially if they are able to go through secondary school and some level of college.  They might have a chance of changing the cycle too.

Right now, it doesn't seem like enough.  I'm honest enough to realize I can't change the worldview of a culture regarding their beliefs and treatment of orphans.  (Orphans in our country not very long ago were mistreated and also were often servants as well.  Overall children have been mistreated and given little rights around the world.)  But I want to!!  I want every child that leaves the orphanage to go back to their extended family and to know they are love, cared for, that they are special and precious.  They they are important and worth something.  That they are valuable and amazing.  That they belong and are wanted.  I want that for every child.  It's hard to know that we don't have control over what happens to the children once they leave the orphanage.  It was never set up that way.  It was a place to bring babies after their mothers died so that they could live.  And they go back to their families.  But that doesn't always mean that they are treated well, loved, wanted, and cared for by those families.

It's hard not to feel discouraged.

I also feel like more can be done.  I feel too tired right this minute to expand on visions and dreams for those children who are aging out, but they exist.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

unexpected photos of the kids I love and miss in Congo!

I received some unexpected recent photos from our Tumaini manager in Congo.  It was so fun to see pictures of the kids I love and miss so much!

Noella, almost one year old.  Standing!!  

The big kids waiting to eat some bananas with the Tumaini manager. 

These sweet babies are the some of the new babies who still need sponsors.  I was so happy to see this photo.  They are out of their beds sitting in bumbos!  They are growing!  Yay!  If you are interested in sponsoring one of the babies who need sponsors, please see our website,  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

being held in dark places- church and my mending heart

I wrote recently on this blog, sharing some of the pain in my heart and my recent struggles as a believer in a loving and good God.  I'm still there.  And that's okay right now.  I've decided to give myself some grace.   Living in Congo was very hard.  I found it so hard to see such suffering all the time.  And if I wasn't actually witnessing it with my own eyes, I was hearing about it. There were times I just wanted to run away from it all, I couldn't bear it.  I still have not recovered.  Too many tragic unspeakable things happening to normal good people who were just trying to live their daily lives.

Like the sister of a friend, who stepped into her bathroom into a puddle of water where a live wire was exposed and she was electrocuted and died.  She left many many small children.  Or the baby of another friend that just died.  Or the man walking home at night who was hit and left to die on the side of the road.  Or the baby at the orphanage that I held and knew that she would die and there was nothing I could do.  Or the baby with hydrocephalus that I tried to do what I could, and she still died.  Or the young girl that died after a surgery to remove her appendix.  Or the little boys removed from their mother because their father had just died and they now belonged to the father's family.  Or the man who was murdered and shot down because of a political agenda he had no control over.  Or the two small children who were in a vehicle at the wrong time on the wrong road and were shot "accidently" by bullets meant for someone else.  The only two children of a woman who had already lost her husband.  Or the small coffin carried by mourners on a dusty village road.  Or the baby I never met named Amiable  who came to the orphanage to live, but came too late.  Or the house that was swept away during a mudslide killing a pregnant mother.  Or the countless mothers who die giving birth to their babies.  Babies we are trying to help.  Or the woman who is raped over and over, who loses her mind, is rejected by her family, who in turn rejects her babies.  Or the men and women who are disabled, who struggle to live a life with dignity as they crawl on hands and knees through roads filled with mud and dirt.   I could go on and on and I wouldn't scratch the surface.

My heart has been broken and it will not mend.  I have been trying to go to church.  I try to listen to God's voice, to read His words.  My heart will not mend.  I sit in church and my broken heart bleeds, and I can't hear the words spoken around me.  The music is soft and I can't hear it over the roar of my soul.  My doubt and struggles swirl within me.  And my heart, it won't mend.

But about a month ago, for reasons that are too long to go into in this post (maybe one day I will share them), we went to a new church.  It is a baptist church with a predominately african american congregation.  Every single service I cry.  I cry through the music, I cry through the prayer, I cry through the sermons.  My heart is touched.  We are out of place but somehow we fit perfectly.  Somehow, in the most unlikely of places, I find a glimmer of hope.  I hear the music, I hear the sermons, I hear the spontaneous song and praise of the church members.   Somehow, in an instant, I understand why in Congo, the church services are long, loud, spontaneous, full of music, full of praise, full of spoken encouragement.  Full of community and support.  Because how else can you survive?  How else, but to be reminded of hope, to know you are not alone, to believe that God is good and loving, faithful and kind?  It is survival, to keep going day after day.  To touch another hand, to sing loudly and long, to lift your hands, to fall down on your knees because of the grief you cannot bear another day.  To give thanks to the One who gives you strength for one more day.  To let it come.  How else in the dark times can you keep going forward.  Only because you are not alone.  Because there are others that hold your hands in the dark, to remind you of the One who never lets you go, to give you hope.

Nyota, fully sponsored.  At Tumaini, we support an orphanage called Save the Children.  We do this through sponsorships of the children that live there.  We are trying to keep the children alive and healthy (both physically and emotionally), by providing formula, milk and additional staffing so the babies are held often and the older children are played with on a regular basis.  Our goal is to reunite the children with their families.  Please consider sponsoring one of the remaining five babies who are waiting.  Our website is here,  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

children that deserve a chance, that deserve to have their stories heard

I was making pizza tonight.  I couldn't remember the exact measurements I needed, so I pulled out the cook book.  It is a mennonite cookbook and I enjoy the simplicity of the recipes right now with four little ones pulling at my legs.  As I randomly glanced to the top of  the page I saw this verse, "The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice."  (Proverbs 13:23)  

It hit me hard, because this verse speaks to what has happened and is happening in Congo.  Living in the eastern area of the country, I was struck again and again by the beauty of the country.  The area we lived in is so lush, verdant, set on a lake surrounded by green mountains covered in tropical jungle.  We had good friends that grew quinine trees on plantations.  The bark of those trees produced quinine, which treats malaria.  They also grow trees that end up producing medicine that fights against prostate cancer.  This is a tiny tiny tip of what is grown and produced in this area of the country.

My husband worked in the humanitarian development.  Large scale projects mostly funded by large U.S. government grants from organizations like USAID.  Some of the projects were in remote villages where there was a lot of insecurity due to rebel and military movements.  In one small area farmers would painstakingly plant and grow their peanut plants, only to have them stolen by rebels or military right before they were to have harvested them.

Injustice can be seen on a smaller level.  On the level of a little babies life.  A woman is pregnant.  She goes into labor.  She gives birth and then she starts to bleed.  In the U.S., her bleeding would be stopped.  She would live, her baby would live.  Not so in Congo.  She dies.  Her baby dies.  Perhaps some of her other children die from starvation.  If they are fortunate they stay with their father and they live in dire, destitute poverty.  Preventable death.  Life that should not have ended.

What we are doing at Tumaini is trying our best to keep the little babies alive after their mothers die.  Most of the babies have living fathers that want their children.  Most of the fathers bring them to the orphanage to save their lives.  The orphanage has life saving formula that the father cannot buy.  The father wants their children, and if the children live, most do go and live again with their families one day (most after 3-5 years, some sooner).  We are trying to prevent death by providing formula and staff for a small orphanage in a remote area of eastern DRC.  It's not an area that is easily assessable.  It's not the safest area of the country.  But, we are trying to meet a need that is very hard to meet because of the high cost of formula, the high cost of keeping a baby alive in a developing country.

November is adoption awareness month.  And tomorrow is orphan sunday at churches around the country.  There are 5 babies, orphaned by the death of their mothers, who still need sponsors.  Would you consider sponsoring one of these little ones this month?  Would you consider being a part of stopping injustice in a small area of eastern DRC, where little ones live in an orphanage called Save the Children?

Please read this post.  It speaks to the difference the work we are doing at the orphanage has made in children's lives at the orphanage.  (And you also get to see my two babies the day we first met them!)  And it is because of people who have partnered with us that makes it possible for us to continue to buy formula, milk and hire extra staff.  We also help to pay for the school fees for 82 children who have aged out of the orphanage and are now living with their family members or long term foster care.

Finally, here is one of two posts about my first visit to the orphanage that left me undone.

Please continue to pass on the word about what we are doing at the Save the Children orphanage.  Feel free to link to this blog or our website.   Our website is    I'm excited to think we could possibly have all our children fully sponsored this month!

Thank you for the bottom of my heart!

Gloire, he is fully sponsored.  

Francine, she needs one more sponsor (at $25/month).

Shereba, he is fully sponsored.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

slow learning curves (adoption)

I came into adoption a bit "dumb".  I didn't know anything about international adoption, domestic adoption, and the issues surrounding both.  I had a simple thought in mind, to provide a family for a child that would not be able to be raised in one.  I have learned so much since we started the adoption process almost two years ago.  I have been challenged in so many ways and met so many wonderful people in the process.

One thing I did early on was to seek out voices of adults who were adopted as children.  I read a book and found some blogs.  I'll admit that at first I was completely scared off.  I read my first adult adoptee blog and the pain was so raw that I closed it immediately and didn't go back for weeks.  All I could feel was the pain my two daughters that we just adopted might feel one day and for the first time, I thought, did we do the right thing?  I realized that by adopting our daughters we had given our daughters a family, but had also added to their pain and hurt.

I did go back to that blog eventually and others like it.  I asked questions, some I think may have been hurtful in my ignorance.  I started to try to listen more and talk less.  And I've learned a lot and I continue to learn so much, especially the more I listen.  My hope is that in the process of listening I will grow and change and that as my girls grow we will be able to talk about their adoption and why they were adopted in an open and transparent way.  I know I will never be able to understand what it is like to be adopted but I hope that I will have learned that whatever they feel they will know that what they feel is okay, that they will never be rejected by us, and we will always be ready to listen.

So, because this is adoption awareness month, I wanted to point to a huge issue I never knew anything about before I started reading adult adoptee writings.  The fact that in most states adults who were adopted domestically as infants cannot access their original birth certificates!    I wanted to add my voice to the growing number of people who are standing with adult adoptees and demanding access to their original birth certificates.  Please read this link to learn more.   And if you are interested in reading adult adoptee writing, here is one of the many good places to start.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What's in a name?

I've been pondering the names of our twins a lot lately.  So much so that I wrote a question about names to a group of adult adoptees that blog and let adoptive parents ask them questions.   And then it came up on the yahoo adoption board that I am a part of today.

Some of the circumstances of our girls' story is hard.  And we are fortunate to know a lot about their story and we know some of their birth family (father's side).  I am so very thankful for this.  But it means we know a lot about choices that were made and how those choices affected their lives.

My own personal story (on my dad's side) is hard too.  And there were some choices made that affected my life in significant ways, but I have always wanted to stay connected to that side of my family.  Because they are a part of me.  When I got married I didn't want to part with my dad's surname (my maiden name) and I added it to my middle name.  Good or bad, it is my heritage, part of who I am and keeps me connected to my past.

Adopting children removes so much from their lives, it takes so much away (it also gives a lot as well).  They lose their country, their family, their culture, they sense of connectedness and belonging.  They lose any connection to their past.   And many times they lose their names (if they are known).   And they don't get a choice about that.

After writing my question to the group noted above, what finally sunk down deep in my heart was that my question was not a valid one in some ways.  I think what finally hit me, is that it shouldn't be my choice whether to keep their dad's surname or not in their new name.  It is their choice because it is their name.  It's theirs.  It's not my name to take away from them.  I realized that I was asking the question all wrong.  Of course I should include their father's surname in their name.  It's their name.  As much as adoption brings with it a new family, it doesn't erase the past, their family, and the genetic connection of that child to that family.  It doesn't mean that I should wipe it all clean and start over.  I love that they re congolese, I love their country.  Every moment I spent with their birth family was precious.  The name of their father is a gift to them (the good and bad), it is precious, a gift I have to give them that not all adoptive parents have to give to their children.   Maybe one day when they are adults they will change their names in a different way.  And you know what?  That will be okay with me.  They will have a lot of names to work from and two families that love them with names to connect them to their past, present and future.  

(These are my thoughts and personal opinions, I know there is a wide range of beliefs about names.  Mine is one of those.  And I'd love to hear others as well.)

ADDENDUM:   Our girls were not given any first names at birth, they had their father's surnames however.  We gave them first names.  Their middle names are currently the first names of significant women from their birth family and then our last name.