Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unclaimed Fears

In order to get the green light to adopt you have to complete a home study program. Then you can move on to apply with an agency. The class we took was very informative and ultimately led us to adopting from S. Korea which was helpful because we began the class unsure of which country and agency to go through. Although we had narrowed it down, making the final decision was very overwhelming.

The class focused on what to expect when bringing home a child at various ages. We saw footage of an orphanage and countless babies who were underdeveloped because there more children than nannies. It was so sad to see a 14 month old barely able to crawl or feed himself. But, the images brought out the instinct to bring home a child and give them the loving home they desperately needed.

We learned how to address people's questions about our adoptive family. People can sometimes be rude and insensitive to adoptive parents especially if the family is transracial. We were told to expect a lot of questions and stares when in public. People are innately curious about adoption but do not always know how to pose their questions tactfully.

Later in the class we addressed the topic of attachment issues and fear of abandonment. It has been studied that even when infants are adopted, they experience attachment issues. We knew we would be bringing home a baby of at least 12 months so this was a bit scary. We were given scenerious and examples of how to cope with these issues. To offer another perspective on adoption a video was played of pre-teen adopted kids talking about how they felt about their family life and the fact they are adopted. One of the points of the video was to show that most kids who live in a nurturing loving environment with their adoptive parents are very happy. Some of them were interested in finding their birth parents or visiting their birth country, but some of them were content and saw their adoptive parents as their only parents. They did not have the desire at that point to seek out their biological parents. This proves that every situation is different and so is every kid. It does not bother us that our son may want to find his birth parents. We are very supportive of the idea, and when he is ready, we will be his biggest cheerleaders. But, the flip side is that the day may never come. It is all our son's choice.

Needless to say I had a lot on my mind after this class ended. At that time we had not yet applied with our agency and had no idea how things were going to go. Unable to picture our future family, it was difficult to peer into the future and feel comfortable with the end result. There were days I very excited to get started and others when I was sad and fearful. The huge price tag was daunting. Figuring out how to pay for the adoption on top of all the other unknowns was a strain on my emotions.

I already had enough experience with family planning to be cautiously optimistic if not completely negative about everything. But our adoption plan was it. This was our way of becoming parents. We chose to cease any further IVF cycles because we needed to endure something where there was only a minuscule chance of failure (like less than 2%). That being said I did not want to worry any longer about big issues. I just wanted to be content that within a year we would have a baby in our arms.

After we completed our homestudy in April we waited until late October to apply with our agency. More waiting. As many of us know it is the waiting involved with infertility and adoption that can be unforgiving- hanging in limbo with only our frenzied minds to keep us occupied. Nothing was going to cure my grief except a baby. We had to wait those months for various reasons. I am sure you won't be surprised when I say, thank goodness. Our son is ours because we waited. Otherwise he would have gone to another family.

Throughout the waiting period to begin our adoption I did a lot of soul searching. I was embracing our new path to parenthood but struggling with the loss of pregnancy. A few key moments that I am so thankful for helped to enlighten me during this time. My senses became heightened to all things adoption. I noticed transracial families everywhere. My heart melted when I saw or met adoptive families This helped me to picture our new family. One day I was in the library waiting to check out a book and the mother in front of me had her 2 year old daughter sitting on the counter facing her with her legs wrapped around thermother's waiste. When the child picked up her head, I saw she was Chinese; the mother was Caucasian. I should not assume this child was adopted but the picture of them embracing made me long to begin our adoption process. I was filled with hope.

Also, when we finally began our journey we met at the coordinators house one morning and were introduced to a couple of families who had already completed their adoptions. A little boy about 1 year old peeked his head around the corner, and when I saw his twinkling eyes and cute winter hat, I fell in love. The kettle of excitement I felt to have my own little one brewed over. I was ready- completely. It was after this meeting that I began shouting to the world that we were expectant parents through adoption. I finally felt I was justified in revealing that I was going to be a mommy soon. This revelation was thrilling.

After our match we were so excited to put pictures of Min Man all over the house. Planning and dreaming were in full swing. But there was also trepidation. Like most expectant parents we were scared. What would our child be like? What kind of parents would we be? We had some extra pre-conceived worries due to being parents through adoption. As the months passed during our wait and Min Man became older I fretted about his language development. He was hearing and speaking only Korean. He had begun to say Mom and Dad in Korean. Also, because S. Korea changed their rules just as we started our adoption (of coarse) the babies were coming home older in efforts to build up inner-country adoptions. Therefore, if the babies were not adopted domestically by six months old, they were opened to the international pool. Due to a glitch in our immigration paperwork Min Man came home at 15 months (about 2 months longer than expected); in our agency's 30 years, he was one of the oldest "babies" to come home- meaning that the couple that received the referral for a baby did not get their baby until after a year. This is different than those who wish to adopt a toddler or older child.

Min Man lived with one woman and her family for his first 15 months of life. I was very afraid he would be devastated after leaving them. The adjustment could have been extremely traumatic for him. Plus he had to travel over 20 hours to get to the US. Think about how cranky you become when you're travelling and how uncomfortable it can be to be out of your comfort zone.

Thankfully, my fears went unclaimed. All the mental preparation was good, but things have turned out way better than every imagined. It has been smooth sailing. I am so thankful that our adjustment was so effortless and that Min Man has been a happy baby throughout everything. The happiness is due to his inner glow and loving and accepting disposition.

The first unclaimed fear:
The first meeting.
We met Min Man in the airport. We did not have to travel to Korea. He turned the corner in his umbrella stroller and was all smiles. Looking exactly like his pictures, he came right up to us and gave us hugs and kisses. His smile portrayed the personality inside, loveable and sensitive.

The second:
Adjustment at home.
Everything in his life changed- smells, tastes, clothing, language, surroundings, climate, people, sleeping (he had been sleeping on a futon).
Min Man was amiable and open to every new change. He began eating all new foods, stopped drinking his usually formula, tried a sippy cup, after a few days was sleeping in his crib, rode in a carseat (not used to that either). His biggest adjustment was jet lag. Jet lag!
Also, communication was not difficult. He knew his English name within 10 days and after about 5 weeks was saying "all gone" "Mama" and "Dada"- awwwww.

Stares and rude remarks from strangers.
There have been inquisitive looks but not blatant staring. And as any mother would say, they are staring at my handsome and cute Min Min. There have only been a couple of questions and they were not rude. In fact, things have turned out to be the exact opposite of my fears. When we are out as a family, I can feel the warmth of people's smiles and reactions to our family. We have felt nothing but support. And now that I am not new at this adoptive parent thing, I will know what to say if someone is staring or says an insensitive comment. I will not feel so insecure about being a parent.

Language development.
Min Man is doing just fine. He can count to 20, knows his alphabet, recognizes all the letter, and says some pretty funny things. It has been wonderful hearing his personality.We went for his 30 month check-up the other day which is big on development being up to par. As Min Man kneeled on the table in his diaper and acted like a frog saying,"ribbit" and then sang Frere Jacques (I Am Thumbkin), the doctor made a quick check mark on his clipboard and said,"Passed language development" with a chuckle.

With infertility and doing ART there were so many worries about becoming pregnant and then sustaining the pregnancy. I have a huge chance of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. And like many of you infertility has completely taken the innocence out of pregnancy. If I ever get a turn, I will be fearful until the baby is delivered.

I cannot speak for all adoptions because there are many different choices. Our situation brought up more fears about what would occur after our child arrived home. There was also consideration in parenting tactics for adoptive families and questions our children may have about their story in the future.

Parenting is scary stuff no matter how you get there. The responsbility is enormous. We all have that in common. Some challenges are unique but the love in our hearts holds no difference.


Kymberli said...

I loved this post. I often wonder about what it is like for parents who adopt older toddlers, especially in the instances of international adoptions. I think that I would have had many of the same fears, and it is good to see that those things that you thought would be challenges weren't. May I ask what some of your unexpected challenges were?

Anonymous said...

I loved this post too. Thanks for writing it. I liked reading about your experience and how it was for you to bring Mini Man home. I have some of those same fears when I think about adopting and will probably have all of them if that becomes our path. I'm glad you've had such a positive experience and Mini Man seems great! (Liked the frog story, lol)

Sugar and Spice said...

That is a great post! Love your blog! :)

KLTTX said...

Thank you for this post. We are in the very early stages of considering an international adoption to add to our family and a lot of what you mentioned are fears that I have too. I appreciate your honesty.

tireegal68 said...

Wonderful and thoughtful post! You really evoked it very well. Min Man sounds like one seriously awesome child and you are great parents:)


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