Category Archives: Weblogs

Meet Lindsay of “Fortunes Full”

 As a part of the annual Adoption Blogger Interview Project sponsored by Production, Not Reproduction, I was paired with Lindsay, sweet, busy new recruit to the two-kid lifestyle, and brain-behind-the-blog, Fortunes Full. Lindsay began documenting her adoption process once she and her husband were ready to begin.

A mother by traumatic birth (pre eclampsia, premature emergency c-section, weeks in NICU), Lindsay knew she wanted to adopt if she had any more children and her partner agreed.

She brought home a new son (her second) this past spring, a few weeks after another plan to adopt fell through when a father decided not to place.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Lindsay:

What kind of adoption did you do?

We decided very quickly on open, domestic adoption through a local agency. It was the perfect fit for us.

How did you make the decision to do this kind of adoption versus other types available (if they were available)?

As we were learning about all the different kinds of adoptions out there, we were shocked at how great the need for African American/biracial adoption was versus how long some people were waiting for a baby of their own race. Everyone has different needs and comfort levels, and we understand that. But for us it just didn’t matter, at all. We wanted a baby and felt we were emotionally and logistically equipped to raise a child of another race, respectfully. We also needed this adoption process to have a very low impact on our son, W, who was two at the time. So we decided on domestic to avoid extensive travel. Then we learned that there was an agency very close to our home  that specialized in open adoptions. We figured that if we were going to have a child of another race, that it would be beneficial to know their birth family – to see where they came from. It was all just too perfect. Open, domestic, multi racial adoption. Boom bam.

Of course it didn’t wind up turning out quite that way though…

What factors (specifically about adoption itself) where most important to you at the time you began the adoption process? Did these change or shift at a later time? If so how and why?

We went into adoption with one focus: a healthy baby to bring home from the hospital. We were robbed of that experience with Little W and we were craving it. So that was our driving force in the beginning. But once we found our path (open, domestic), I think a fire was lit in me and I developed a passion for it. Open adoption is a relatively new thing and I think it’s very scary to outsiders. I love “spreading the gospel” to people who aren’t in the know. Hopefully some form of open adoption will be the norm, some day.

It was also important to me to find a respectable agency that put the needs of the children first, then the birth parents. We were lucky to find that in our local agency. In my opinion, once agencies or adoption professionals start putting the needs of the adoptive parents before the babies and birth families, you’re creeping into what seems like very questionable moral/ethical ground.

Once we were in the thick of The Wait, bringing a newborn home from the hospital seemed less and less important. And good thing because H’s adoption plan was created when he was three months old. Our feeling was… when this kid is six months, three years, eleven years, twenty years old, is it going to matter that we missed twelve measly weeks with him? No way.

As you raise your adopted child, what is most important to you today? Is it what you predicted would be important when you began the adoption process? If it has shifted how and why?

I think my answer to this mirrors that of any other parent, adoptive or biological. I want my sons to have every opportunity available to them. I want them to shoot for the moon, to follow their dreams, to be healthy and kind and loving. Being  an adoptive parent will always be a bit trickier than being a biological parent because there’s more questions to be answered and more people woven into the tapestry of our lives. This is especially so if you’re a multiracial family. In preparing for our adoption, I did all the research, I knew all the ways to include my child’s ethnicity into our family’s nucleus. But as fate had it, that sweet little baby wasn’t placed with us. And just a few weeks later we were surprised with an emergency placement… of the blondest haired, bluest eyed cherubic baby you’ve ever seen.  Go figure. So while I still want H to have a connection to his birth family’s roots, it’s not quite so pressing because simply, at first glance, there’s not that blazing difference in appearances. Did I answer that question appropriately? Not so sure. We’re just seven months in from placement, 7.5 months in from that heart breaking disappointment. So even though Little H consumes every corner of my mom-brain and is the light of my life, I still think about the baby that  wasn’t placed with us every day. I’m sure that will fade with time. But currently, the transition from expecting an African American baby to having a Caucasian baby is still a part of my life. Clearly, some of the details aren’t what I expected. But overall, the ideals that I hold important remain the same. I want him to know that he is loved by his birth family. I want him to know about them – and to know them. I want him to know that he is entitled to feel exactly how he feels. If he’s feeling sad or mad regarding adoption, I want him to know that that’s ok and that we’re there to listen.

What resources do you look to for learning what you need to know about adoption and raising an adopted person? What do you like about these? Are there any “resources” you have seen and not liked? Why?

I’m a blog junkie. I bought several books while making our adoption plan but I just can’t get through them. They’re written by well meaning psychologists and I’m sure they’re great for some people.  But when it comes down to it, I prefer blogs. Real life experiences from people who aren’t experts is what I need. I like to learn from real moms’ mistakes and laugh with them as they learn the ropes of parenthood. It puts a face and a heart on “The Adopted Child” that you read about in the books.

You have a mixed biological/adoptive family. Do you feel there are unique challenges to this experience, from your perspective? Are there unique blessings?

I do feel that there are unique challenges to having both biological and adoptive sons. Just the other day, I got into a conversation with W about how much we look alike. It wasn’t a real heavy talk. It was short and to the point then he was off with his trains and dinosaurs. But it stuck with me for a while. How would that convo had gone down if the boys were older? How would it have made H feel to hear me talk about how much W and I look alike? Will W feel left out because he doesn’t have a birth family like H? We will definitely have challenges as a family of mixed origin. Luckily, we have a few years to figure out how to tackle those subjects. Hopefully, our endlessly open dialog regarding H’s adoption and birth family will leave him fulfilled when it’s brought up that W and I look like twins. We’ll be able to jump right in with pictures and stories about how much H looks like his birth parents and siblings.
What does “open adoption” mean to you and your family? Do you feel you have the support you need to maintain a healthy open adoption? What is your support? Would you like to have more and if so, what kind?

Open adoption means so much to us. Ultimately, it gave us our son. But it also gave us such a bigger sense of love for a child.  Before learning about open adoption, I would have never guessed that loving an adopted child would include love for his birth family. H’s birth family loves him so much – and that will always be tangible to him. I see our relationship heading towards a place of closeness. It’s still very new and I think I don’t hear from them much because they’re healing. But I keep a blog for them and always let them know how open I am to him knowing (I mean really knowing them). Hopefully with time for healing, we will be comfortably close. We all live less than two hours apart, so there’s no excuse, if both parties are game.

If we need it, our agency is there for us. But I don’t feel like I need them as a middle man. I’m confidant in our relationship and the respect is there, on both ends. Like I said, I’d love to have a close relationship with them. But only time will tell if they will reciprocate.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Lindsay! To read my answers to Lindsay’s questions, visit her blog.

A Homeschool Post at BlogHer

Why do people tend to jump to the conclusion that homeschooled children will grow up to be anti-social freaks? Here’s my response to that assumption.

 

 

Days: Long, Years: Short, Internet Friends: Real

Nat just turned seven. This is remarkable in and of itself, but what’s more so is that when I told Twitter, a half dozen people piped up with their “wows” and we all reminisced about, not so much how old our kids were all getting, but how long we have now known each other.

Everyone (in this Twitter chat) was someone I met via blogging, either before Nat was born or shortly after. Everyone was also someone I happen to have also met somewhere in three dimensions at conferences or on business trips. But even though these face-to-face meetings are great, and add something to the sense of “knowing” someone, they are hardly one percent of the substance of the friendships I’ve had for roughly seven years, with people I know as well or better than many I only know “in person” because we have shared some of the most important things about ourselves with each other, in more depth than is usually possible in the busy-ness of actual (versus virtual) reality.

I cherish my friends made in the old world of school and college and grad school and church and work and coffee shops. But in the new world of virtual life, I have been able to meet soul mates I never would have run into if I was limited by three dimensional space and a travel budget all but annihilated by the expense of raising kids in the city. In fact, I have become friends with people with whom I might have never become friends even if we saw each other on a regular basis because of differences in ability that the Internet more or less levels, allowing us to communicate more easily than we might in person.

I’m glad I have a foot in the old world of time and space limited by…well, time and space. It gives me a sense of the real value of those limits and the desire to artificially preserve them in some cases, for my better mental health. But it also gives me a real appreciation for the truly monumental shift of what it means to be human, now that, for much of the developed world, those time and space limits have been reduced to almost nothing by virtual reality and its relatively easy access. As limited as access still is (and I am personally, closely related to people with absolutely no access to it, so I am aware that it is by no mean universal), it is still perhaps a good deal more accessible than, for example, steamship travel was to most people when it became available.

I am not one to sing the unqualified praises of anything, let alone the Internet. But I do get annoyed sometimes, when I hear the Luddites grumping about the bad new days. There’s good, there’s bad, there’s a lot of “meh” in between, but here we are. And I have the new world to thank for some really wonderful people who have given me all kinds of support for my odd family over the years, including the simplest but perhaps most critical kind of support of just being odd themselves and letting me know we’re not alone.

Happy Friendship Anniversary, everyone–whether it’s exactly to the date or not. It’s been an unqualified blessing to know you.

Repost from BlogHer: Baby Selling is Everybody’s Business

The following was originally posted to BlogHer.com on 12 August 2011.

It came across Twitter. Just an AllTop adoption link. Sometimes I click them and sometimes I don’t, but “Baby-Selling” caught my attention.

And that’s how I found out, via Malinda at AdoptionTalk, that Theresa Erickson, big fish in the small pond of surrogacy and assisted reproduction, had pleaded guilty to fraud. The charges are related to wire fraud, but the meat of the story goes like this:

Ms. Erickson hired gestational surrogates abroad (to avoid certain surrogacy laws in California), transferred embryos to their bodies, and when they passed the second trimester of their pregnancies, she found prospective adoptive parents for the to-be-born babies, telling them the babies were planned for intended parents (that is, the people who hire surrogates to bear their children) who had since backed out of the surrogacy arrangement. (Just to clarify, there were no original intended parents. The gestational surrogates were literally bred to provide healthy infants to a hungry adoption market.) When the babies were born, they went to these “new” parents to the tune of 100 to 150 thousand dollars.

My jaw was on the floor when I read this. I even cursed on the Internet — something I rarely do — in the blog comments. But then again, however horrible the case, however wildly unethical the scam, it wasn’t all that very surprising.

The fact is, neither the assisted reproduction nor the adoption market in the United States is very well or consistently regulated. People frequently shop around for the state laws that most benefit them when using these means to grow their families. And when it comes to profit in these industries — (I’m calling adoption an industry because in many ways, it is. I leave aside foster-adoption for now.) — there is woefully little oversight for insuring that people are not taken advantage of — people in any part of the equation, whether prospective parents or pregnant women (however they came to be pregnant).

My opinion of surrogacy is pretty much the same as my opinion on adoption. I believe there should be no profit involved and that there should be as much openness as possible regarding the gestational mothers and their gestational offspring (regardless of genetic ties or their absence). That’s not a mainstream opinion within the assisted reproduction world, but nevertheless, there I am. The Erickson case flies in the face of honesty and openness and non-profit ethics, of course. But it also highlights something that a friend mentioned in a Facebook conversation about this case. Children are commodified in the world of assisted reproduction and adoption. Nine times out of ten, (really, more often than that) adoption is about finding a baby for parents who want one rather than finding parents for children who need them (again, I am not speaking of foster-adoption). And of course, given that it involves the production of a whole new human, assisted reproduction is always about babies-for-parents rather than parents-for-babies.

Now, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents and their correlates in the world of assisted reproduction will often say, “so what if I just want a healthy newborn baby? Other people — fertile people, people who didn’t choose adoption — just want healthy newborn babies and nobody holds them up to ethical scrutiny about that desire.”

(This isn’t entirely true, plenty of women who fall somewhere on the margins of middle-class white marriedness are absolutely scrutinized and criticized for their desire to be mothers.)

Mel at Stirrup Queens, said it thusly:

“I am so [f***ing] angry that the majority of people in this world don’t have to navigate the ethical concerns that come with assisted family building.”

She is right, of course.

But what I would add, is that they should.

Every child in the first world is commodified and fetished by capitalism. Every prospective parent ought to think long and hard about why s/he wants a child and what the ethical questions about any form of parenting and family are, before jumping in and doing it. (I’m speaking here of people who don’t find themselves with unplanned pregnancies.)

We are lambasted twenty-four-seven with images of little mini-mes and fantasy versions of adults in child form, from Baby Gap to Toddlers and Tiaras. Parents cast their fantasies and desires onto their children all the time. They project them in place of themselves. All those Facebook avatars featuring children rather than the adults whose pages they represent come to mind. Internet handles like “Ashley’sMom” come to mind. Tee-shirts like “Daddy’s Slugger” come to mind.

Children are the ultimate commodity in a society that trades on everything, including human relationships. Weddings, after all, are not about people becoming a family, but about wise and tasteful shopping. Just watch cable television for lessons on how much to spend on a dress.

But that’s not all! The children of developing counties are commodities too, and I’m not talking about international adoption, though that is the place many go to point fingers. I’m talking about all the kids who work in the factories where our clothes — from wedding dresses to Baby Gap rompers — are made. Cheap labor is the best product out there in our times.

In a world like this, is it any wonder that an experienced third-party reproduction lawyer found herself willing to slip from making real surrogacy arrangements and real adoption placement to merging those two in a convenient way that benefited (however unknowingly — and the eventual parents did not know) the “customers” she wanted to please, made the surrogate labor happy (presumably — she paid them the going surrogacy rates) and made her a tidy profit?

Really, it’s just corporate synergy in action.

I’m an adoptive parent. I never tried to get pregnant, but being a lesbian, if I had, I would have required assistance. So I could be in any number of boats with the people who get the most finger-wagging about the commodification of children. I do what I can to reduce that commodification by advocating for openness in adoption, taking the profit out of adoption, asking tough ethical questions of myself and others using similar means to build families.

But working to end the commodification of children is hardly just the job of us third-party reproducers. A case like Erickson’s is simply a glaring example writ large. Everyone who cares about children — who cares about how capitalism diminishes human values universally — ought to join us.

How are you fighting against a society that prizes stuff above people; goods above relationships; money above families? What are you doing to assure that what Theresa Erickson did is unfathomable in the future?

In Honor of the Rapture: A Poem for my Grandmother

Cross-posting, or rather, sending you to my writing blog for this one.

The People You Meet Online

Why are people afraid of the Internet?  As far as I can tell, the Internet is a place where, if you can read and if you can write, you can vet people pre-meeting and know how cool they are going to be in advance.  Or at least get a good clue in the right direction (I, for example, am cooler in real life, which I'm sure my virtual-turned-literal friends can vouch for).

Anyway, all this is just to say that my latest Internet meet-up has been a stunning success.  Some of you might remember Sster, who hasn't blogged in a while.  Well, I'm here to report that she's fandabulous, just like you suspected she was.  Her kid is cute, her husband is sweet and her kitchen is a den of delights.

All this could just be a ploy to gain our trust before the axe comes out, but I'm doubting it.

No Virginia, There’s No…You Know

For more on this, see my latest BlogHer post.