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« Speaking Up, Speaking Out, Moving Forward | Main | Be a Warrior »

August 12, 2010



I was going to bait you by mentioning God's plan, or destiny, but frankly I'm a little scared.

Paula O.

Ken - mention it at your own risk!

Let's just say that this has been a hard week filled with "challenging" people - both online and in real life.

You are right to be scared.

Wendy O

Paula, the problem is that I honestly don't think they care to hear it. They are the "last of line", the "best answer", etc. so why should they care or for that matter concern themselves with a first family. Yes, they care about the loss for their child, BUT the people you are talking about "know" they can fix that with enough love, enough care, enough stuff. They cannot hear you because they have put picks through their ears penetrating the drum--they won't listen to you as an AP because they can make you "other", your AP's not capable enough, they can ignore your experiences because societal priviledge and the common attitude among the general public reinforces the do-gooder attitude (although they will proclaim loudly they did not rescue their children and are the lucky ones even though there very avoidance of the child's life beyond them is crystal clear, but no worries they will make it up with culture camp and China adoptee reunions!).

As an AP and not an adoptee, I can say that there is the information/stories/experiences/education available and I have the priviledge to experience that and try, just try, to understand all of the loss my daughter goes through OR I can ignore it. The thing is, and maybe this is why I sought out her family going beyond what I thought was possible to do it and have made sure both--foster and first families--are our family too.

My daughter FORCED us to listen, shoving me (us) into reality. At age two she had her family, she didn't want a new one. Her loses are great--first family, two orphanages, a long-term foster family, and then us. She was re-traumatized--her handover is the major factor in her PTSD. We call, we email, we mail, and visit her first and foster families as much as is financially possible. I can say it is no easy task over the seas, with cultural and language barriers, but so...who is it hard for--me. Tough. Parenting isn't easy. Is our connection enough, I don't thinking is not, but I am doing all I can--I have to rely on her first family to do the rest--I wish there was more for her, but I cannot force their hand. That being said, there comes a point where that is her relationship with them and she will judge it by their willingness/ability to connect. Her foster family connection is very strong, amazingly so after being apart for so long. When we visited last summer she had changed dramatically from when they had last saw her, but her love still shined through. It was a conscious effort to stand back and let them have one another again for the week they were together. Of course I am mom, but I am not the only mom.

The point is, she should always have the option of those relationships...always be able to explore those relationships..they should not be foreign. Her birth country should not be foreign, but neither should being an Asian American. It is work--for me, but it should NOT be work for her, not as a child.

Okay..I am rambling. I just wanted to say that there are people screaming right along with you. There are people touched by adoption from all angles that are seeking reform--in answer to your question, our agency requirements were a joke. Until we have to prove beyond our home, our wallet, our savings, our ability to read, but no proof that we have...this will continue.

Sorry to hog up your comment box, but I have been on the verge of screaming within my community of AP's. I know you share that role and can only imagine the anger at the comments you receive.

Paula O.

I appreciate your perspective, Wendy and for sharing part of your family's experience.

When I look at the continuum of where APs (nevermind the general public) stand on their willingness to at least look at their child's experience from a different POV, you have people like yourself and then you have the contingent who just cannot or will not even ponder the value in examining the effects of what adoption means from their child's POV or the first families' POV - they are stuck (and quite content - who can blame them, really) in their position of power and privilege. To some (albeit miniscule) degree - I get that - we're all on a journey and have to start somewhere - but on the other hand, being an AP IS different than being a parent and an adopted child IS going to experience different realities than his non-adopted peers. Especially TRAs. The fact that so many APs cannot even fathom this line of thinking literally blows my mind. But most of all it saddens me because ignorance is far from bliss when you're the one being hit on the head with it over and over again - and whether some APs want to believe it or not, their kids are subjected to enough ignorance in the real world surrounding adoption and race- they certainly don't deserve to drown in it at home, too. APs need to step up and get it together already. Parents don't have the luxury of waiting 5-10 years to have their "awakening" about how adoption and race can impact their child. And with all of the available resources out there today - there is no excuse not to be more educated as an adoptive parent. None whatsoever.

Honestly, it's embarrassing and shameful for myself as an AP to know that there are people in the general public - people who have no personal connection to adoption whatsoever - that have a better grasp and understanding about what an adopted person might be going through than some of my fellow APs do. Seriously.


Paula, let me offer a slightly more serious comment.

This is not intended to minimize your pain. But let me suggest this: you have high expectations of the human race. People, generally, don't like nuance. They don't aspire to, and don't achieve, the goal of holding contradictory ideas simultaneously. Faced with painful and complicated contradictions, they are quick to take the rationalization that superficially resolves them.

When I say "they", I also mean "me", because I am just as capable of all of that as anyone.

Before fatherhood, I was steeped in a culture telling me for 31 years how extraordinary fatherhood is. Yet I was still completely unprepared for how powerfully I would love my kids and how important they would be to me. It's tremendously difficult, and painful, to hold in my head simultaneously that I love them, that I am lucky to have them, that I can believe I can give them a good life, BUT that their presence in my home necessarily represents loss and pain. The temptation to take a path that seems to resolve this cognitive dissonance is very, very powerful. It would be so easy to accept a worldview that says that my children's adoption story represents an unqualified good, and therefore not have to hold two ideas in conflict at the same time.

If I manage to do that, it's by the grace of God, not by strength of character. (I don't accept the proposition that my kids are with me by God's plan, and that this absolves me of the duty to be aware of the pain their path represents. I don't believe I know the mind of God, and I'm frankly afraid of people who think they do.)

So: people who take a fluffy-bunny approach irritate me, and make me worry for their kids. But I think about all the issues on which I have taken the easier path, and think "there but for the grace of God go I."

Of course, the pain is not as personal for me as it is for you.


Dear Paula,

Thank you so much for having the courage to write about this. The issue you are addressing seems to be a worldwide phenomenon among adoptive parents (also in Sweden)and I know it takes some courage for an adoptee to speak out loud about these things. To me it means a lot to know that there are others, like you who see what I see and understand the importance of expressing it. So let's go on doing it even though it sometimes demands that we almost scream our heads off.


Some fellow APs are awful. Many times I have stood with my mouth hanging open at their actions or comments. There was a couple in our travel group that made me sick. But - as I was reading your post - I just wanted to point out that there are lots of adoptive parents that have lost a child - in fact many have lost more than 1. Maybe going through that trauma helped some of us to actually understand the point of view of the biological family - as well as the foster family (if applicable.) My daughter was 13 months when we met her in China. Her first night with us she banged on the hotel door in anger and grief yelling for her foster mother.

I know you are not speaking about all adoptive parents. I also know that there are some out there that should never have become parents - especially adoptive parents. It makes me cringe to think about it. I can only imagine the emotional damage they create. Hopefully there are more qualified parents out there vs. unqualified.

Paula O.

Ken, my issue here is this: Adoptive parenting is not an accidental event that just happens to befall a person or a couple without their explicit knowledge, full consent and unabashed cooperation. People, like myself and my husband, who make a conscious effort to pursue adoption and are afforded the privilege of raising an adopted child have a responsibility to make every attempt to do right by this child - a child whose needs often are going to look very different than a child entering a family by birth.

To speak to part of your comment, I'm not sure about my exact feelings on the expectations that I have about the entire human race but yes, I have VERY high expectations of adoptive parents and I make no apologies for that. Adoptees - by the very nature of what that particular identity makes us - are forced to hold the very paradoxes in adoption of which you speak all of our lives and too often, I see too many adoptees doing this alone. Is it too much to ask for us parents to at least consider that such paradoxes could exist? For the sake of our child? The child we cried for, pleaded for, prayed for and in many instances waited years and years for? If not - then maybe adoption isn't for them. But unfortunately, that revelation doesn't come until after the fact and then guess who pays the price? It certainly isn't our fellow adoptive parent.

If it sounds like I'm railing against YOU or all APs as a collective set, I'm not. And I certainly do not mean to diminish the very real existence of many, MANY APs who are doing their level best to help their child navigate through the choppy terrain that comes with being a TRA. The irony is that here I am, ranting and raving across my own blog and making a scene that is quite unbecoming when the reality is that the people who actually are reading this are not the ones who I think need it the most.


Unfortunately - those were my exact thoughts. The people that need to read your blog are the ones who are not. Plus, I'm not sure they would get it even if they did.

What you said about how being an adoptive parent is a privilege is so true. I think of that everyday - even when parenting is tough.


Nah, Paula, you're not crazy. I, too, hear lots of AP and other people out there in the main stream discounting the depth of loss to first families - mamas, papas, grandparents, aunties and uncles. Heck, most people don't even acknowledge their loss at all. Just their "badness" or the "good deed." It sucks.

Lisa Forck

Paula, unfortunately, I don't get to read as often as I like, so I assume you're speaking of disrespect toward birth families?

I eek when I read that stuff. No, I don't know for fact that the birth mothers loved my 3 children, but as a mother I can't help but believe they did. I don't dwell and think of her often...I admit. But, from time-to-time when my son does something or just looks at me with his adoring, beautiful eyes I imagine and feel pain for her loss. I so wish I could repeatedly tell her how much I love her two children and to our other birth mother how much I love her child. My love is almost more intense because of her. I can't imagine her pain and loss and am thankful I'm on the other side of the coin to be honest. Birth families and adoptees are in the hardest place with adoptees being the hardest because they NEVER had a choice in the loss.

I see my children and while I see 'my' children, I also see 'her' children. I pray because I respect their birth families that they do as well.

Mei Ling

@Ken: "Faced with painful and complicated contradictions, they are quick to take the rationalization that superficially resolves them."

But that IS what adoption is about. Adoption in itself, at its base, is about the paradox of having a loving family at the expense of losing another family.


Paula, I love your heart. I love that this still bothers you, that you still care, that you haven't become callous or jaded. It's hard not to.


It is ultimately a hypocrisy for adoptive parents to swear undying love for their children while dismissing the possibility that their children's parents loved them equally so. This, I think, is the power of judgment and stigma. If we can find a way to judge those parents for the behavior that led to pregnancy, we can dismiss their right to love and parent their children.

Pretty slick and pretty sad, yet society has bought it for quite awhile and seems to be willing to keep buying it.

The ray of light in all of this are the organizations and initiatives I see springing up all over the world, like KUMSN in Korea, the Adoptee Rights Demonstrations here, and many, many others. They're making a difference.


To add on Margie's comment: you are making a difference.

Mei Ling

"It is ultimately a hypocrisy for adoptive parents to swear undying love for their children while dismissing the possibility that their children's parents loved them equally so."

Then I guess pretty much all adoptive parents are hypocrites, no? ;)


I agree (as an AP) that there needs to be massive reform in how home studies are carried out- it is (especially in comparison with other countries) ridiculously EASY to adopt in this country. I think my entire home study process took a month. Yep, 4 weeks. And when I made the decision to adopt a disabled child who cannot walk, the person asking the HARDEST questions (interestingly) was my contact at my agency, NOT my social worker.

And while I may be wrong, or the odd man out- I do believe with all of my heart that my child was infinitely loved by those who came before me. Not only by her first mom/ (parents), but especially by those nannies who cared for her at New Hope Foster Home. She still speaks so fondly of one in particular, and next to her bed she has 4 photos of them together hung on her wall, to kiss goodnight. :O) Thankfully, we are still in contact with the home and are planning a trip back next year.

At any rate. Scream. I recently read one of the MOST.APPALLING. BLOGS.EVER. with blatant disrespect for China being spewed from this AP's mouth. I have been so distraught and angry I've yet to post about this on my own site- I need time to process (the author deleted my comment).


Paula, for me it all comes down to a single letter. Too many AP's go into adoption thinking they are on a mission to Save a child. When you become an AP to Have (or Have another) child then you start from a different point. Change that "S" to an "H" and you go from seeing yourself as the doer of a good deed to someone enjoying the privilege of responsibility. Part of that responsibility, in my view, is accepting the fact that others were part of your child's life before you and even more importantly made your child's life possible. They are real people and not just biological markers on your child's path to you. For the life of me I cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to diminish or ignore them. One day I'd love to meet my daughters' first parents to both thank them and let them know their/our children are remarkable people.

What you're saying needs to be said. Thank you. I wish more people were open to hearing it.


I have in the past enjoyed reading your blog, but this one will be the last that I read.

"Maybe it would take an event as horrific as this - THE LOSS OF A CHILD - for some adoptive parents to truly understand down to the depths of their heart and to the core of their soul how horrific it is to suffer THE LOSS OF A CHILD." This statement takes it too far! I am an adoptive mother, and I look at my children and grieve for what their birth mothers are missing. I don't know any adoptive parent who doesn't understand that their is a great loss for the birth mother and the child when an adoption takes place.

Mei Ling

"I am an adoptive mother, and I look at my children and grieve for what their birth mothers are missing."

But you HAVE your children.


Uh, "happymomof2"? My adoptive parents fit into the category of "not giving-a-flying-f*ck" about what my birthmother and father suffered in losing their child.
You must not know very many AP's, because a whooole lot of them fit that description. Attend any adoption picnic. You'll see.

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