When we began the adoption process, we were part of a large community of hopeful adoptive families. Many of us had blogs, and we shared exciting news and joy, trials and tribulations, and support and information. It felt like we all belonged to something.
But as the years passed by, one by one, most of those families dropped off the radar, for one reason or another. We lost touch in many ways. Friendships nurtured were suddenly dropped. Life got in the way. That’s how it goes.
A few managed to continue to keep touch and share information about our new lives, that of newly-formed or growing-and-learning adoptive families. Information is shared now of a more practical nature: cultural classes, common kid ailments, school issues, and general parenting stuff.
I haven’t felt like I have had a lot to contribute, because our adoption and post-adoption experiences seem to be fairly different from most of the parents who continue to stay in touch. I feel like I am one of the ones who probably should have wandered off, but didn’t.
It’s informative, but really often outside my sphere of experience. But there’s one issue that is common to many adoptive parents, and therefore myself, that I lurk to read about. And it is the one that causes me the greatest angst.
It is contact with our kids’ birth families.
This is one of the single most important issues for adoptees as they grow, as even the most basic research will tell you. It’s important from various perspectives: issues of self-esteem, identity, culture, you name it. And, as the parents of a transracially adopted child, it’s a big part of helping them build their understanding of who they are, where they come from, and the feeling of “belonging”.
We all need to “belong”, but when you are the black child of white parents, no matter how much you love each other, it’s pretty obvious you don’t look the same. And every kid, adopted or not, needs that link to their biological past to help them feel good about who they are and develop their feelings of self.
I know this. Of course I do. And here is where being a part of the adoption community at this point is hard for us.
So, so many families are now at the point of their adoption journey where they are helping their kids discover their biological roots. They are travelling back to birth countries, seeking out birth families, visiting biological relatives and building open adoptions after-the-fact. It’s a good thing, a wonderful thing.
If you can do it.
They are all relating stories of reunions, challenging or rewarding, and the value it has for their children. They are building up relationships. They are seeking out vital cultural background for their kids. Some are travelling back to birth countries annually, or every couple of years. It’s all so valuable. And they are encouraging others to do the same. Like, NOW.
We’re one of the “others”.
We haven’t got the financial resources that many of these families seem to have, to be able to fly families across the planet, and vacation for a week or two. We could maybe do it in a number of years, if we saved carefully. But as it stands, in our current financial position, all our cash is tied up in food and housing and the right-here-right-now needs of that beautiful girl we adopted.
And honestly, we’re still beating back the debt incurred for that one adoption, while other families manage their second or subsequent adoption with all the expenses and travel involved, not to mention doing family travel as well.
And in all honesty, due to the nature of our daughter’s birth family experience, we may not even have anyone to go and visit, even if we did have the financial wherewithal. It might be an impossibility. So there’s that.
All this, in light of all the things I read about other families doing, and all the literature advocating these vital experiences… it really leaves me feeling defeated.
It’s tremendously depressing. It makes one feel like a bad parent. Like you are letting your child down in some of the worst ways possible.
As if parenting is not hard enough, and challenging enough. There is this weight pushing down, this feeling, always telling you that all the research and anecdata says you must do something that you are just not able to do. That in not doing so, you are forever doing some irreparable damage to your child.
I marvel at how people are able to do it, honestly. I feel envious. I feel jealous. I feel defeated.
I envy these families, and I can’t help feeling we’re doing our daughter a disservice. And no parent wants to feel like they’re not doing the absolute best they can for their child.
But the reality of our situation is that we are not in a position to do it right now. We don’t have the money. We will, in a few years, hopefully have the money and the ability to travel to the city where my daughter was born, in a country I have loved for years despite only being lucky enough to visit once. But right now, we cannot. We have more immediate needs for the time being.
We are trying to get our daughter off to a good start with the means at our disposal, and for her, the ability to travel, even for a simple vacation let alone across the globe, must come second to her educational, developmental, and social needs in the right here and now. No matter how much we wish to, we cannot do both. And I hate feeling like we are in the minority as adoptive parents, and that we are failing her because of it.
We do what we can, so that she knows that her biological start IS important, that those roots DO matter and that we love and cherish that part of her history. We’re open and gladly talk about where she was born, how she came to be our daughter, and what it means to be a part of the two countries she is forever linked to. She can ask whatever questions she wishes, and we will answer them honestly.
And we will continue to send reports and photos to her birth country, in the hopes that perhaps, one day — however unlikely it may be now — if they wish, her birth family can seek them out and see how wonderful she is, how she is growing, how she is loved. And perhaps it will be a door that opens in the future.
When the time comes and she feels ready to do more, we will seek out cultural resources to allow her to explore her background at her own pace. We’ll do what we can within our means to help her research, explore, and learn about where she came from and that essential part of who she is. And we’ll plan for the future.
We’ll do what we can, as we can. We’ll do our best. But it’s hard feeling that that is not enough.