adoption FAQ's

in this post, i am going to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions about our adoption experience. in so doing, i reserve the right to be frank, open, honest or… illusive and sarcastic. i will answer in a few different ways, so be sure to review the key below so that you can decode my cryptic answering methods. i am writing this to answer legitimate questions, and also to educate people on adoption in general. when i am condescending at any point, that is because i am a little rude and sometimes enjoy making ignorant people feel stupid. i will work on that, but probably not before i finish this post, so for now, let’s just accept it as a little harmless comic relief and we’ll address my deep issues another time.

FAQ key:
Q: stands for Question we are frequently asked.
SCA: stands for Sarcastic Condescending Answer (which is usually what i am thinking in my brain, but try not to say out loud. but often fail and say out loud anyway. sometimes behind the person’s back because i am a sometimes-rage-a-holic, but also a sometimes-coward.)
REA: stands for Responsible Educational Answer. (this is what i feel obligated to say in order to enlighten and educate people, because deep down i really do understand that most people mean well and just don’t know any better. despite what my sarcasm might suggest, i really do want to answer questions and i want people to feel comfortable enough to ask them. but, i’m torn, because i also want to make fun of them.)

so, here goes.

Q: is that one adopted? (often asked while physically pointing at our african-american son.)
SCA: no. he just miraculously came out brown. it was the shock of the century.
stop pointing.
REA: the answer is yes, we adopted our son. however, general adoption etiquette is to say that he was adopted, not that he is adopted. he is a lot of wonderful things, and being an adopted child is just one of those things. it is not his whole identity, even though it is a significant event in his life. so, yes… he was adopted.

Q: how old was he when you adopted him?
ERA: 10 days old.

Q: what’s the story with his mom?
SCA: none of your da*n business.
REA: well, that’s an interesting question. she is a strong woman who gave life to a beautiful boy, and chose to make an adoption plan for the child she loved enough to bring into this world and choose a family to love and provide for him. she is selfless and brave, and is one of my heroes. and because i respect her so much, i am not going to share the details of her life (or the story behind his conception) with just anybody. that is her story to tell, not mine.

is it hard to deal with his hair and skin?
REA: it’s not hard, it’s just different. i do have to be aware of the ingredients of products before i put them on his hair or skin. black hair and skin tends to be very dry and can be really sensitive. so, i am careful to avoid chemicals and/or botanicals that cause drying or irritation. he does have mild eczema, which flares up if somebody inadvertently uses cheap, white-people products on his hair or skin. again, it is not difficult to care for his hair and skin, it just takes a little commitment. i have been really diligent about keeping his hair and skin moisturized because i never wanted to be that negligent white woman who didn’t know how to take care of her kid’s unique needs.

Q: what do you use on his hair/skin?
REA: i like the olive oil based products, because we seem to have good luck with those. sometimes i will use straight olive oil, or coconut oil on his scalp if it is particularly dry. i have heard really good things about the brand Carol’s Daughter, so i am going to order the Tui Leave-In Conditioner because i have had a hard time finding a natural leave-in that actually works. i use an organic product for children of color, commonly referred to as “hair grease.” i will also do a conditioning treatment and wrap his hair occasionally to prevent drying and breakage. i wrap his head in a handkerchief while it is on his hair. we tell him he’s an “awesome motorcycle guy” and he leaves it on and feels pretty sweet at the same time… so it works. cetaphil works on his skin, but is not all-natural… so, i am still on the prowl for something else that is moisturizing enough for his skin and is all-natural, but doesn’t smell like playdough.

Q: do you love him the same as your own children?
SCA: if i say yes, will you really believe me?
REA: yes, i love him as MUCH as my biological children. (they are all my “own” so we prefer the term biological, rather than “natural” or “our own”. harper is not unnatural, and he is my own.) that being said, while i love him as much, i don’t love him the SAME as my biological children. before you freak out… just let me explain. i love ALL of my children differently. i love that annalee has my long, golf-tee shaped legs. i love that marlie has my curly hair. i love seeing my personality traits in them. (sometimes that also terrifies me, but you see my point.) there is something really cool about the connection between a mother and a child from her womb. on the other hand, there is something profoundly miraculous about growing a bond just as strong just by choice. when you start from the ground up on conviction alone. without any biological connection whatsoever, harper and i have built a mother-son bond from scratch. it is amazing… and it is just as strong and just as special and totally unique. i love them all the same amount, but i love each of them for different reasons and in different ways. i love the girls differently than i love my boy. i love the older ones different than the little ones. i love their personalities for different reasons and their physical features for different reasons. i love the similarities of my biological kids, and the mystery that comes with adopted children. i chose to love harper out of conviction, and eventually that grew into instinctual, unwavering motherly love. maybe that makes me a monster, but if i am being honest… yes, it is different. but i wouldn’t have it any other way.

Q: is he from Ethiopia?
SCA: you really need to get out more if every black baby you see is presumably Ethiopian.
REA: nope, he’s from new jersey.

Q: how much did it cost to adopt?
SCA: i’ll tell you how much it costs if you chip in to pay for it.
REA: adoption fees vary based on the agency, the type of adoption, and oftentimes on your income. t can be very expensive, but there are a lot of creative ways to defray the costs, like fundraisers and scholarships. it can range from free to $80,000, it all just depends on a million factors.

Q: yeah, but how much did you guys pay?
SCA: seriously? how much money do you make at your job? how much money do you spend on counseling each year? what gets you in the mood? (some things, dude... you just don’t ask people.)
REA: i will tell anybody who sends me a check.

Q: are you going to adopt again?
SCA: today alone i had to ask harper two times to take off a bridal veil he was wearing. the poor kid is stinkin’ surrounded by a bunch of white sisters… he needs a brother.
REA: yes, we will.

Q: do you get any grief for adopting a black child?
SCA/REA: sometimes. everybody has a different opinion on different issues… some think it’s the best thing anyone could ever do, and others probably think we belong in jail. can’t please everyone.

Q: when are you going to tell him he’s adopted?
SCA: probably when he’s leaving for college.
REA: he already knows. we talk about it all the time. we want him to be proud of who he is, as an african-american, as a boy, as a christian, as an adoptee, as _______…
we also believe that creating an environment where he can talk freely and openly about his feelings about being adopted is the healthiest thing for him. if we aren’t open about it, we fear he may withhold his feelings from us out of fear that we will be upset by the discussion.

Q: do you communicate with his real mom?
SCA: i consider both myself and his birthmother to be real moms. she really gave birth to him, and i really am raising him. no artificial ingredients!
REA: we have a semi-open adoption, which means that i send letters and pictures and occasional gifts to her.

Q: yeah, but does she write back?
SCA: Nunya. Bidness.
REA: that is harper’s private relationship. when he is old enough to discuss his relationship with his first-family/biological family… you can ask him then.

Q: will you let him search for his mom?
SCA: no, i will forbid him to have a relationship with the woman who brought him into this world. ‘cause I have the right to do that.
REA: i will not only “let” him, i will help and support him in any way i can. i feel that my role is to facilitate whatever relationship is healthiest for him. i will not push a relationship, nor would i ever deny him the right to know the people with whom he is biologically connected. i will never make him feel guilty, nor will i make him “choose” to be a part of one family or the other. i wouldn’t cut anyone (that loved him and wanted what is best for him) out of his life, certainly not the one who created him! it simply isn’t my right to “let him” or “deny him” the right to know his biological history.

Q: why did you decide to adopt? could you not have any more kids?
SCA/REA: we simply felt led to adopt. we feel like the word of god is very clear on what it means to be a christian, and part of that means caring for the poor, the needy, the homeless, the fatherless and widows. scripture does not say "care for the orphans, unless of course you are a fertile turtle... then forget the orphans." for us, adopting and birthing had nothing to do with each other. they are just the different ways we have grown our family. we also feel like it is a little obnoxious that christians can be so in-your-face pro-life, but rarely offer a home to a child that may have been a result of an unplanned pregnancy. we felt like it was our part in the pro-life movement, it was our responsibility as human beings who have enough room in our hearts and our home for another child, and more than anything else... it has been our blessing and privilege. we felt that god put a burden on our hearts for young birthmothers in crisis pregnancy situations, and that we could relate since we also experienced the fear and uncertainty that comes with an unplanned pregnancy. and not that it is anybody's business... but we can have more children biologically, which is good news for you, because it would really have sucked for you to drag up all my infertility baggage had that been the case.

Well, those are the FAQ’s. again, despite my remarks… i am truly passionate about adoption and am eager to answer any other questions people have. if you have the guts to ask me something after i just wrote all that… then promise to answer gently, without any sarcastic condescension. i won’t be a bully. scout’s honor.