Monday, November 19, 2012

Educating Others On Adoption

Today I am thankful for...

~  Having the opportunity to help others in their journey of adoption.

Week 3

Educating Others On Adoption

     The best education I could give to others regarding adoption is to provide a little insight into our own experience.  First, I need to provide you with some information regarding the Hague.   Each country that is part of the Hague Adoption Convention's standard of international rules regarding the protection of children still have their own set of national rules.  This makes each international adoption process unique to that particular country.  So what our experience with the Korean program was doesn't mean it will be the same for the Chinese, Russian, or other international programs.

     So let's begin.

     People have always assumed,  (myself included until I took my first adoption class), that when a child is adopted in infancy, the attachments must be greater than that of an older child.  Well, in some ways it is, but there is so much more to factor in .  When you look at the big picture and research all the factors that enable children to emotionally and physically attach, you realize it all begins while in utero.  The ability for the brain to nurture attachment is abruptly interrupted when the child is sepearated from the heartbeat he knew while inside his birth mother's womb.  For some children, that is the first of many interruptions.

     We fell madly in love with our little boy when we received his paperwork, and that love continued to grow over the next 4 1/2 months while we waited for the travel call.   We prepared ourselves as well as we could as we waited to bring him to his forever home.  It was so terribly difficult to wait for the travel call.  As each day passed, our excitement and love grew stronger.

     Then reality hit.  Hard.  Do you know how hard it is to love someone who doesn't love you back?  To try and calm the mournful cries and moans each night only to be pushed away, only to come in as a runner up to a baby bed that brought more comfort than your warm and loving arms?

     We took classes on this and expected it, but we didn't really "expect" to feel the pain to the degree in which we did.  It was total rejection. Where we could read his history and study his features in the photograph, imagine what his baby soft skin smelled like, and love him without "meeting" him, he did not have the same emotions or feeling for us.  How could he?

     We looked different to him.  We smelled different to him.  We sounded different to him.  We behaved differently than his own foster family did.  Imagine someone taking you away from the only family you knew and plopped you down in front of another family and told you to "be in love with" them.  The horror of it!

     Babies feel this, too.  Infants feel this loss and abandonment and even betrayal perhaps.  In my son's Korean program, these poor little ones are taken to the center's nursery at birth.  A state of the art facility with a pediatrician's office down the hall.  They wait there until their foster family is assigned to them.  Sometimes up to two weeks.  Even in this beautiful facility, our son was never able to attach to one person there since the shifts rotated every 8 hours, sometimes only 4 adults to dozens of babies.

    When we were in South Korea, we stayed at the same adoption center.  One section of the center was a small hotel for parents adopting or for adoptees and their families back in country for motherland tours.  Parents could volunteer for the mid night feedings.  Since we had severe jet lag, we signed up.  I remember how torn I was when I walked in and put my gown and mask on.  All these beautiful, little newborn babies!  Starving for the attachment, waiting for their foster families and then their forever families.  I couldn't help but wonder how hard did my son cry before it was his turn to be fed, changed, or rocked?  Who fed my son or changed his diaper while he was in that exact nursery six months earlier?  Was it one of these ladies working their shift?  I wanted to hug and kiss them all.  I wanted to swoop them up in my arms and just take them all home with me.

     Though this facility was clean and loving, these children were still waiting to learn to bond and attach with someone.  Their chance would finally come when they were assigned to a foster family.

     Our son spent a wonderful 5 1/2 months with his foster family until his travel papers were ready.  At least that is what we see from the pictures they took of him and gave to us.  That's when they handed him off to us.  Total strangers.  He was told how much these strangers loved him but he had no clue who we were.

     Those first few nights home were so very painful.  I remember, clasping my husband's hand in the middle of the night, listening to the mournful cries of our son and spoke my fears out loud.  Did we make a mistake?
No matter how much you read up on or study for certain situations, until you actually experience it, you will never fully comprehend the reality of it all.

     Verbalizing my fears was the first step in the right direction.  It wasn't easy, but we did make progress.  Slowly.  My poor husband had it worse.  In the beginning, our son would only come to me.  He only needed one person and I was his primary care giver.  It took much longer for him to attach to my husband.  Eventually our son did learn to trust and attach to my husband.  About every few months, we could stop and look back and see the progress that was made.  It took about a year to really see that he was quite attached to us.  It wasn't a fairy tale.  It wasn't easy.  It was some of the hardest months in our lives, but it was so worth it!  Every bit of anxiety, doubt, fear. All was overshadowed by love and joy.

     I'm sharing our story in order for people to step back and realize the emotion that comes along with adoption.  I am a big believer in old-fashioned common sense, more so than being politically correct.  Here are a few suggestions on what to say or not to say to an adopted child or the family of an adoptee.

*  NO adoption jokes.  They are very cruel.  They are emotionally abusive.

*  It is okay to inquire about adoption.  Great!  But certain questions need a certain level of descretion or approached with a level of sensitivity.  Want to know about finances?  Ask if you can call your friend or email the question .  Don't ask in front of the adopted child.

i.e.  How much did he/she cost?
Which I reply....How much would you cost?  (if I want to be a smarty pants)...or....He is priceless. (If I just want to remind my son standing in front of that rude person how just priceless he is.)

*  When a child may appear to be adopted, do you really need a confirmed answer if it is obvious?

i.e.  Is he yours?

Which I reply...Yes, they are all mine.  (If the other four children are with me and wanting him to be a normal part of the family.)

Sometimes, the obvious dim-witted person persists.

i.e.  No, is he yours-yours?

At that point I try REAL hard to make my point...Yes, he is mine-mine.  (With a grin that says, obviously your elevator doesn't go to the top floor!)

And if I want to be nicer I will add....These four are home grown and this one is a transplant.  (Believe it or not, those kind of people will actually get offended at me for using that answer.  LOL!)

 And the list of questions goes on and on and on.  Just remember, sensitivity and common sense go a long way.

Do not forget to stop over at  Jen's Forever, For Always, No Matter What.  You can read the contributions other mothers have on this week's topic.  Finally, we encourage you to pass this along to others who are contemplating adoption.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

~  Patty  ~



  1. Patty, this is a great post! Sarah was so sad when she joined our family, we were overjoyed to have her, but she missed her foster family terribly. It was a hard transition for her. Thanks for sharing, this is important for others to know! Thanks for linking up.

  2. Patty, this is a beautifully written post, filled with information that I had never thought about. As I was reading, I swear, I was thinking,"I never thought of that..."
    Thank you so much for sharing! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving week, friend!

    P.S. I have some new people to add to my prayers...those precious babies and the wonderful people who care for them!

  3. I second Billie Jo! As I was reading through your post, I never had stopped to put myself into the place of the adoptee. How frightening to suddenly be plucked up and "transplanted" thousands of sights, sounds, smells, etc. As you so beautifully explained that the adoptive family has months to prepare their hearts and minds...the child not so much...even though it is a good thing!

    Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  4. I just can't imagine how heartless some people are with their questions. I'm going to make sure my friend's daughter has visited your blog.

  5. a lovely post. people need to hear how it feels to the adoptive parent and the child who was adopted ! Thanks for sharing today!

  6. We a few friends who have adopted and they all say that the most difficult part is loving the child who isn't ready to love you heartbreaking that must be to be in the middle of it. Thanks for your perspective and sharing another piece of your story.


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