Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guest Post: Filling in the Blanks

I will be back to normal blogging this week.  I have some exciting news to share about Tumaini, some great update photos of the kids, and of course normal life to start writing about again.  In the meantime, I have another lovely guest post to share from a fellow adoptive DRC mom and friend who I respect and admire.  

When you adopt - there is a lot you don't know. Some information will be filled in as you go. Some information will happen once your child is home. Other things won't ever be known.

One thing that happens once you adopt a child is that you become their advocate. As a mom to littles, I pride myself on being a fierce advocate for their histories.

Let me explain..........

When we adopted Big Sis we were not allowed by our agency to travel. When we adopted Big Sis, we had a limited amount of information on her history. I was told that's what happens when you adopt internationally. That's what happens when you adopt from Africa. That's what happens when it comes to orphans. What I failed to adequately understand was that 
from the moment she came home I would be searching to fill in the blanks. 

I realized after my daughter was home that it was painful to have limited information on her past in DRC and if it was painful for me as her mother to have limited information - 
it would be even more painful for her to have limited information about herself.

Someday my daughter will ask who her birth mother was. She will ask about her birth father. She will ask if she has siblings in DRC or where she was born or if her parents are still alive. My daughter will ask lots of questions I don't even expect. She will ask me what it's like in Congo and what they eat and the clothes that they wear. She will ask me all sorts of things about Congo and her history and birth family and all these things are 
natural. Even though she was adopted as an infant she won't ever forget where she came from or how she joined our family and she shouldn't have to.

When we traveled to DRC to finish the adoption for our second adoption, we were able to ask questions about their histories and their adoptions. Details that we wouldn't have necessarily gotten had we been told we had to use an escort again. Details that had to be done personally by us. The information we got from traveling to DRC was 
priceless and necessary. Did we get every question answered? - No. Were all the blanks filled in? - No. But we were closer in understanding their past as well as their culture.

From traveling to DRC we can now tell our children what DRC is like. What the weather is like. What the people are like. What they wear. What they eat. How it smells. So many details that we could not tell them had we never gone.

We were not able on our trip to visit an orphanage - but I know that this is something we can do on a future trip. When we got our vaccinations to travel our doctor told us, "Most parents who travel to adopt internationally will return again." This is true - we will return to DRC. Probably more than once. I'm already making plans for a return trip.

The importance of obtaining 
all paperwork on your child as well as traveling will also help fill in the blanks. Getting things translated will help. Talking to the key players in your childs' adoption will help. If you are able - speaking to the foster parents or orphanage directors will help. Obtaining copies of abandonment paperwork in country from social services or the US Embassy will help. Obtaining copies of medical reports will help.

Something that is done currently in other African nations where adoptions occur are investigations. Hiring a trusted and experienced adoption investigator will help fill in those blanks. Having a person research and find information on birth family as well as obtain copies of paperwork on your child will help fill in large blanks in your childs' history. Someday my own children will want to know if their birth families are alive and know about them. As their mother and their 
advocate, I need to have all the answers I can.

With adoption there will be blanks in your child's history and story, but as a parent it is essential to help your child fill in those blanks until your child is able to take over where you left off. Filling in information about your childs' adoption and past does not mean they do not love you as their adoptive parent - it shows that you love them enough to help them figure out who they are.

b, adoptive mom of three children from DRC

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think unless you speak the local language (Lingala or Swahili, as opposed to French) fluently, I'd be leery about relying on a translator. I'd also be leery about trusting the foster parents, my husband and I are fluent in French and we met our child's foster parents - we spoke with them at length. Later, we found out about a lot of outright lies they told us about our child. Maybe that was just our experience, but with all the corruption in Congo, I would never recommend someone adopt from there - not with what I know now.