The Adventures of Squirky the Alien

A Children's Book Series on Adoption


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A Birth Mother Shares

There are days when I wonder about C’s birth parents. We only saw their passport photos. Did he get his charming smile and love for music from them? How did they feel when they handed him over to the adoption agency?

I recently connected with Rachel Roberts, a clinical social worker from California. Ten years ago, she gave her daughter up for adoption (I wish there was a more politically correct way to say this). I really appreciate how meticulously and authentically she shares this experience, because it’s something that has always seemed elusive to me. I hope that you too will be blessed by her words.

rachel

Why and how did you decide that your daughter should be adopted?

The counsellor that I worked with helped me look at every option with an unplanned pregnancy. She helped me see what life would be like as a parent, what life would be like making an adoption plan and she educated me on the different types of adoption. It wasn’t until my 7th month of carrying my daughter that I decided adoption was the best option for both of us. The final agreement between me and her parents was a semi-open adoption contract with the goal of her becoming fully open over time. They expressed a desire that she either grow up always knowing me or waiting until she was old enough to decide to meet me.

I was fortunate to have two loving parents raising me and that’s when I started to realise something. I realised that every child born should be born with the same amount of opportunities, but unfortunately, they are not. I knew that I could not welcome her into this world in the same amazing way that I was welcomed into this world and by choosing to parent her myself, I felt selfish.

Her life was not my life but I was entrusted by God to make the most profound decision of her life on her behalf. I prayed a lot. I cried a lot. I ate a lot! Most importantly, I wrote in a journal, which saved my sanity. I think it will serve as a wonderful buffer for the time when my daughter and I can rebuild our relationship. I wrote in it every day. I wrote down my thoughts about pregnancy, about her. I wrote down her measurements and heartbeats that were reported at my doctor’s appointments. I passed this on to her when we said goodbye. I included a picture of me and a picture of her father. I included some pictures of our family with her in the hospital. I wanted her to look at it and know that there was nothing but love for her in this world.

 How did you feel when you had to let your daughter go to her adoptive family? 

Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. She was crying in her crib and I was crying and I held her and kissed her all over her face and held her little hand. I could not physically place her back into the crib because to me, it felt like abandonment to just place her back down in the crib alone with no one holding her. So I passed her along to my family so that they could say goodbye and my mind has literally blocked out everything else. I don’t remember going home and I don’t remember what I did or what my thoughts were. I remember seeing my mum and my boyfriend’s mum crying outside of the hospital room when they wheeled me out. I remember crying in my kitchen when the counsellor arrived for me to sign papers to make it official. What has carried me through each day since then was remembering the 9 months I had spent praying and analysing every option and that what I chose was the best chance for her to live a full and happy life.

In everyday life, what are some common thoughts that cross your mind when you think about your daughter and the life she’s leading? 

Ten years later, what I long for the most is to know what her laugh sounds like. I see the joy on her face in so many pictures and I know that her laugh has to be so deep and contagious. The days that I spend crying because I miss her are now few and far between. I am able to be proud of her on a daily basis. And deep down. I know that she wouldn’t want me to spend my days crying in grief, so I’ve worked hard and I’ve attempted to do good and help others.

I often wonder how disciplined her parents are and if she gets into a lot of trouble. I wonder if the gifts that I send are appropriate or if she will even like them. Maybe she already has the book I’ve sent or doesn’t like the shirt I bought her. I wonder how close she is to her sisters, who are also adopted. My mind is never worried or concerned about her safety or happiness. I believe that God has been gracious to me throughout her life and has granted me peace in this regard. I never think about her crying or hurting or anything like that, I trust that she is ultimately living a life that is good and meaningful.

What are some things you’ve learned about your daughter that are similar to you? (e.g. appearance, personality, talents etc.)

In appearance, our faces have the same bone structure. She also has my ears and the shape of her eyes are like mine. We both love chocolate, coffee, and cheese. They would always talk about how much she loved coffee (decaf) at a very young age. What they don’t know is that I worked in a coffee shop the entire time that I was pregnant! Recently, she decided to paint her bedroom purple … I also had a purple room when I was her age. We both love performing, dancing, and being outside. She is apparently also very stubborn and I have to admit that trait comes from me. They also talk about how affectionate she is, I am too. They talk about how social she is and that many of her teachers refer to her as a future CEO – I’d like to think she gets that from me! But there are also many things that we do not have in common. For example, she loves to cook and watches the Food Network all the time while I hate to cook.

What advice would you give to adoptive parents who are reluctant to reveal to their children that they’re adopted? 

I think it’s all about the parents’ perception of adoption. Children can pick up the hidden messages that we often try to hide. If you have insecurities and fears about revealing this to your child, you should first look within to examine why you are having these feelings. You have to accept that your child was adopted before they can accept it as well. Your child should ultimately feel that their adoption only gave them more people who love them even if their birth family isn’t in contact or in their life. They need to know and hear from you that the reason they are with you is because many people loved them – both their birth families and their adoptive families. And you should ultimately let them lead you through the discussion. They’ll ask things when they’re ready and it will probably happen over the course of their life, not in one big “sit down” moment and then it’s over. Honesty is best in this situation. Love them daily, showing them through your actions how loved they are.

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Answering Awkward Adoption Questions

Squirky 3 Parent Guide 1

As an adoptive parent (especially in Asia), be expected to answer questions. A lot of questions. Whether you like it or not, you have become an ambassador for adoption. Given that this is still a topic that most people here are ignorant or have misconceptions about, try to regard these questions as opportunities to educate. Most of the time, the questions come from good intentions or pure curiosity.

However, I can understand how these questions can feel intrusive and even offensive at times. This is why it’s good to “prep” for such scenarios so that you establish your personal boundaries clearly while not being overly defensive to others. Here are a few common questions that my husband and I have received as adoptive parents. I’ve accompanied them with some suggestions on how to approach them. Hopefully, this section provides a helpful starting point for your family to deal with these challenging adoption queries.

Squirky 3 Parent Guide 21. Why did you adopt?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this question, especially if asked by family and close friends. However, there will be times when you will be asked this by strangers or acquaintances. Do not feel obliged to reveal any more than you are comfortable with. You don’t have to deny or lie, but coming up with a “generic” response will help safeguard a level of privacy that you’d like for your family.

Suggested replies:

  • “My husband and I were not able to have a baby biologically and so we decided to adopt.” (No need to go into detailed infertility issues if you’re not comfortable talking about them.)
  • “We’ve always been open to adopting and providing love and care to a child who needs it.”

Squirky 3 Parent Guide 3

2. Aren’t you afraid that this child will have illnesses or mental disorders that you won’t know about till later?

This was a question posed by our parents and close friends when we informed them of our decision to adopt. It initially angered us because it is an extremely hard-hitting question. Instead of getting into heated arguments with them, we came up with a levelled response that assured them that we were ready to be adoptive parents.

 Suggested reply:

  • “Illnesses and mental disorders are developments that we cannot control in life. Every parent, whether adoptive or biological, faces such uncertainties. We are committed to being the best parents we can to the child we intend to adopt and that means providing unconditional love and care no matter what happens.”

 Squirky 3 Parent Guide 4 3. How much did you pay for this child?

In Asia, many of us aren’t afraid of asking each other about our salaries or how much we paid for property and cars. As such, it is very common to be asked this, even by acquaintances, and they probably are unaware of how offensive this question can sound when framed this way. No, your child is not a commodity. As such, answer this question in a way that makes them (hopefully) realise this.

Suggested reply:

  • “Do you mean to ask about what the adoption fees are like? About as much as giving birth to a child.”

Squirky 3 Parent Guide 5

4. Isn’t this child so lucky to have been adopted by you?

There’s this savior complex that surrounds the whole idea of adoption. People might tell you how noble or selfless you are to adopt. While this might seem flattering, it’s important to stay grounded and remind these people that adoption is a personal family decision that comes about through a variety of circumstances. At the end of the day, adoption is a blessing amidst a tragedy (separation from birth parents) and it is important as adoptive parents to be realistic about this aspect.

Suggested reply:

  • “Actually, we’re the lucky ones to have the privilege for this child to join our family. His/her birth parents must have sacrificed so much to let him/her go. He/she has been such a blessing to our lives.”

 Squirky 3 Parent Guide 6

5. Aren’t you afraid your adopted child will reject/leave you once he or she gets older?

 Another “hot” question that often comes from older relatives. Given how filial piety is valued in this part of the world, this is how we’ve tried to allay their concerns. We’re not sure if our reply works, but they don’t probe further after this!

Suggested reply:

“We fully expect our son to leave us when he’s grown-up and lead his own life. We don’t expect him to take care of us in our older years. In the meantime, we intend to bring him up and provide for him the best way we can. We can’t control how he responds to us as parents as he gets older, but we will always love and support him.”

(Illustrations courtesy of David Liew)

Would love to hear how other adoptive parents deal with these questions – feel free to leave a comment!