Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Listening hearts and tender souls

About 4 years ago we started thinking about adoption.  I didn't know anything about international adoption.  I knew I just had a yearning in my heart to provide a home for a child that needed a home and I knew I wanted to do foster care or adopt from where we were living.  I never once thought I would live overseas when I first had these dreams.  In fact, I did a MPH and never took a single international health course (though I did take a couple later)!  When I met my (now) husband, I had recently come back from a trip to India (my first overseas trip) and a love of the world outside of the U.S. had just been awakened.  Our first date involved him talking to me for hours about Congo; he talked about the history, the politics, the culture, the faith, and about his heart full of love and passion for DRC.  He quoted chapters from Isaiah about God's promises.  Over time I too began to have those same dreams and hopes that he had shared with me so fervently that sunny day as we road bikes together up the NCR trail in Baltimore.

We got married and he said, "let's go!".  I said, "whoa!  not yet!".  Ironically, two years later when we were expecting Natalie, I felt the urging too and together we sold our house, most of our belongings, said hard goodbyes to dear friends and family, packed up our 8 week old and moved to DRC.

After a couple years, I remembered that dream of providing a home for a child where we were living.  I always thought that would mean the U.S. because that is always where I thought I would live.  But, as our years continued in DRC, it became more and more "home".  So, we began the process to adopt from where we were living.  As I mentioned before, I didn't know a lot about adoption.  I was naive, hopeful, and trusting.   But as in most things, I had a lot to learn.  And what I first learned was I had to listen.  I had to listen and hear what was being said.  I think the first thing I read that really impacted me in a deep way was the writings of an adult adoptee on a blog called Yoon's Blur.  Mila wrote words that challenged and convicted me.  I realized that I was missing so much in the midst of thinking I had it all figured out.

At the same time I was living in DRC.  I was surrounding by women who were just like me, yet suffering from social injustice, extreme poverty, insecurity, rape, war.  Women, just like me, that loved their children and their families.  Women, just like me, who were trying to help each other, who were trying to care for their children and their families, to keep them together.  Women and their families who mattered just as much as mine.  Who mattered just as much as me.  

All of a sudden having a listening heart and a tender, compassionate soul meant everything.  Hence, this blog and this journey.  There have so many brave voices sharing lately.   A lot about adoption ethics.  I say the words "adoption ethics" but what that really means to me and what is at the heart of these posts is caring about families and caring about keeping families together that are vulnerable and struggling.  People speaking out about coming alongside each other when times are hard and when we need each other the most.  This is beautiful.  This is worth fighting for every day of our lives.  

Here are the voices I have been listening to over the past week--

*Those that linked up to my post.  Amazing stories, thank you for sharing them!

*Mila wrote a moving powerful post yesterday at Lost Daughters.

Then you will be able to ask the questions that really matter, that really get to the root. I've stated this before as have many other adult adoptee bloggers. And we'll keep saying it until people finally start to not only listen but to act.
The question to ask yourself is not what are all the good reasons for adoption to continue? Or whether it was best for me to be adopted?
Instead, I believe, the question to answer is WHY are children being relinquished and adopted in the first place? 
The answers are complicated but absolutely necessary to face.
Then, perhaps, you'll see the potential reality of who not only my Omma and Appa and I could have been, but who all these other families could have been, if someone had been willing to ask those questions long ago...  
*Livesays posted an excellent post yesterday.  (I certainly raised my hand too).  

For whatever reason, there is an undercurrent that involves privilege. American privilege, consumer privilege, born into money and things privilege, white privilege, Christian wanting to convert others privilege, whatever it is... probably some combination of all, that says, "I am better for this kid than you, poor person."   

I'll submit sometimes that is true; sometimes a materially poor or mentally ill or terribly abusive parent cannot care for a child - but not always and not even usually.It doesn't take all that much to love a first family and give them a hand up, it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first mother. We just have to be willing to do it.
*Jen Hatmaker is writing a series of posts about adoption ethics.  Part one is here and Part two here.  Excerpt below is from part one.  

Yet people working in impoverished countries tell me something totally different. My friends, Troy and Tara Livesay, work in maternal care in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. By every statistic and standard, it is a hot mess. Yet at Heartline, their organization that offers prenatal care, safe birthing facilities, and parenting and child development classes for vulnerable moms, their numbers disclose something astonishing: Out of roughly 300 births – and I’m talking very poor women, some raped, some teenagers, some single moms, extremely disadvantaged – only ONE birth mom has ever relinquished her baby. As Tara told me, “If our small, simple operation has virtually a 100% success rate, we are not trying hard enough for birth families.”
 
What would happen if we reallocated a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development? What if we prioritized first families and supported initiatives that train, empower, and equip them to parent? This would absolutely be Orphan Prevention, not to mention grief prevention, loss prevention, abandonment prevention, trauma prevention, broken family prevention. What if we asked important questions about supply and demand here, and broadened our definition of orphan care to include prevention and First Family empowerment?

*Amanda at Watershed is doing a series on Adoption Truth.  Talk about brave and courageous.  She is standing up to her "agency" and refusing to sign their gag clause.  And they won't release all her paperwork.  

We hope that, after reading our story, you will support us for this simple reason: we will not sign a gag order to protect our former adoption "agency" and their facilitator in return for the easy release of our documents.

*Megan at Millions of Miles posted a great post about foster care which is very relevant.

Not everyone has those supports in place.  And even though I felt like a failure for using them (don't you love how our twenties trick us into thinking that we have to be superwomen?) they were there and were my saving grace.  They kept me from being one mistake away.
What if those supports hadn't been in place?  I think that the longer we study these kinds of things and the longer that we are entrenched in the adoption/foster community- the more that we realize how many things happen just because of the lack of supports for families.  And while I wish there were more supports available to people before something bad happens, I still find it to be such an incredible blessing to be a part of being that support now and to hopefully continue to be a support for families even after their kids leave our homes.  There are times when this seems so far off and there are times when a conversation with our birth mom has totally restored my faith in humanity.  It makes me sad that I ever judged to begin with.  If you ever want a way to keep your judgement in check- become a foster family.  We all have so much to learn- especially me. 

1 comment:

Mary Hoyt said...

So many wonderful conversations happening!! Thanks for the excerpts and links. You always lead me!