It’s not often that I negatively dwell on something that truly has nothing to do with me, or my loved ones, or my good friends.
But here I am, flying at a cruising altitude of 39,000 feet. Rather than focus on the turbulence up here, I’ve dragged out my laptop to get onto paper the words that are begging for air. And it’s a topic close to my heart: international adoption.
Having worked for four years alongside a highly successful international adoption facilitator, I have some definite perspective on this subject. ‘Highly successful’, by the way, does NOT infer monetary success. Quite the opposite, actually. ‘Highly successful’ refers to the hundreds of privately adopted international children that were successfully placed in loving families from around the world because of the thoughtful and diligent guidance of someone supremely experienced and knowledgeable in this field.
‘Highly successful’ also refers to the abundance of love, care and joy that these newly formed families provide to all of their children. How do I know that? Because each of these families became like OUR families…we got to know them intimately as we guided them through their individual adoption journeys, all of which were complicated and arduous, as is the nature of any international adoption.
In addition, I have personal perspective on how adoption might fracture a family…not the adoptive family, but the birth family. My sister was a teen-pregnancy statistic, and, after marrying The Creep, she then divorced The Creep and gave her baby up for adoption when he was four months old. The course of my own life was forever changed in profound ways that I could never have imagined at the age of twelve.
I was told by a well-published author, in the first of several of her memoir writing workshops that I attended just a few years ago, that I have a very unique POV on this subject. She had to explain the acronym to me. POV is writers’ lingo for ‘Point of View’.
She runs her intimate, small group writing workshops by often doling out rather harsh feedback to those students whose writing she feels is sub-par. I suppose in her defense, honesty is the only constructive feedback, but her delivery isn’t always appreciated by attendees who’ve paid a fair amount of money to be mentored by someone who’s made a successful living as a writer.
But then again, she is entitled to her own opinion after all. Some of the most commercially successful writers today are writers whose writing styles she personally abhors. I guess it’s all a matter of how you define ‘success’. Good writing means different things to different people.
Same with mothering. Isn’t it all just a matter of opinion anyhow?
Oddly enough, it’s this same well-published author who’s been weighing so heavily on my mind these past days. I’ll just refer to her as WPA (well published author, of course)
Divorced many years ago, WPA carved out her living as a writer using her single parent life (and that of her children’s) as the primary subject matter. She now splits her time between the U.S. and a foreign country south of our border, where she also conducts writing workshops from her home there and continues living the mystique life of a serious writer.
About sixteen months ago, WPA traveled to the continent of Africa to bring home two beautiful sisters around the ages of 7 and 9. She professed on her website to having more love to give, wanting to provide a loving home to children whose homeland is so ravished by atrocities, poverty and despair.
WPA expressed her excitement and preparations to nurture these girls through their transition from one culture to another. She said she felt prepared to be a mother to them, and to welcome them into her fold. She wrote of their birth mother who’d died of AIDS, and of her visit to their orphanage where she’d enjoyed dancing with them to Michael Jackson music, and then spending time together as they braided each other’s hair. WPA wrote that she had ‘more life wisdom at long last, perhaps.’
So, you might ask, what’s the problem? She’s no different (aside from being about twenty years older) from those Hollywooders who’ve brought popularity to international adoption. Most of them are high visibility celebrities, and rather outspoken with their liberal politics. Yet, with thousands of children who need their help right here in the United States, these media-savvy celebrities have chosen to adopt kids from third world countries, which I do know, in and of itself, is an act of love without borders.
But now I wonder deep down if it isn’t also a political statement? I wonder if they’ve inadvertently created an unsavory adoption genre similar to the wild popularity of the ‘designer’ dogs? Has it become simply more ‘cool’ to adopt internationally? Has the purpose behind adoption been lost in the mindset of Hollywood?
So here’s what’s really bothering me, leaving me with a simmering anger as I type furiously, ignoring the startling air turbulence in the skies above the Rocky Mountains. Just a few days ago, I was driving with my golf buddy out to the course for our weekly round, and the moment she climbed into my car, she was anxious to get down to serious chat. She wanted to know if I remained in touch with WPA, or if I’d run into her recently. No, aside from periodic blog-type emails, I hadn’t run into her in several months or more, I said. What came next was like hearing a rumor gone wild.
It seemed that just the night before, my golf buddy had heard through a reliable source that WPA had suddenly pulled her two adopted daughters out of our local schools and had sent them on to live permanently with another family out of state.
WHAAAT? I said. This was unimaginable. “I’m not a part of WPA’s inner circle”, I continued, “but I just cannot imagine such a thing”.
Golf buddy’s source was solid, someone heavily involved at our local schools where these girls are enrolled and flourishing, at least according to WPA when I ran into to her last. (WPA and I had chatted just briefly, ending with WPA asking: You are still writing, aren’t you? The girls were noticeably beautiful, and well-mannered. They were sitting at the café table with tablets and colored pencils, and they offered impressively well-articulated greetings, leaving me with a very charmed impression.)
So, I had this shocking news-release that sat like a soggy piece of toast settling into the pit of my stomach, and although our conversation quickly turned to other topics, I found that I couldn’t shake it from my mind. What possibly could have happened to WPA where those girls were pulled out of school just weeks before summer vacation, to live with another family? My golf score clearly suffered that day while my thoughts were elsewhere.
Unable to shake it out, all I could think was ‘No way…there must be some mistake here’. I just couldn’t imagine any circumstance where it would make sense to hand off two legally foreign-adopted children to another family unless possibly there was proven abuse, or terminal illness involved. I was relatively sure neither of those circumstances were part of this equation. But, not knowing the real truth continued to eat away at me. So, I decided to email WPA to get the facts for my own peace of mind.
I started my email expressing my hope that she and those beautiful girls were well, happy and looking towards a bright future. Then I didn’t waste words. I told her I’d heard what seemed like a wild rumor earlier in the day. ‘Our community can be very small’, I typed, and continued with ‘Whatever the true circumstances are, I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you with hope that things are motoring along in every good way for both you and your beautiful girls.’
Within minutes of pushing the SEND button, a reply came back. She wrote simply: ‘This will explain all. Warmly, WPA’
What followed was a heart-wrenching narrative (apparently sent in an email blast to her many followers in her extended circles) explaining why, after just fourteen months, she felt she was in over her head, and that the girls needed a two-parent family. She explained how it became clear to her as her old life faded away, and her new life as a full-time mother to two adolescent and quickly growing girls from a third world country across the globe became more than she could handle. Her health took a toll, she quickly became sleep deprived, her writing all but stopped, and she felt the needs of her girls weren’t being met. She described the wonderful family that her girls were already adjusting to, several states away. (WPA says her girls will have plenty of ‘family’ around them, as well as extended family in neighboring communities, ranches to explore, horses to ride, and churches to attend. They will have the attention they need from multiple sources, and in short: it was a gesture of love for all concerned.)
Completely stunned, I had to wipe tears away while reading her narrative. Yet I had no doubts in my mind about the truth of her words.
So I emailed back: ‘It takes tremendous courage to do what you know in your heart is the right thing to do. The love you share with your girls will be there forever, no matter where they reside going forward…’
And I believe that wholly. Yet, I continue to feel a growing anger. Now that I know the rumor is actually fact, I should be able to just forget about it and move on. But, nope. WPA has actually just broadened my POV on the issue of adoption.
What kind of mother gives her children up because they feel like they’re in over their head, or because they become sleep deprived, or feel their old life slipping away?
Don’t ALL mothers experience those very same emotions? Certainly at one time or another?
What kind of mother gives up her two children, after flying across the globe to adopt them in the first place because she had ‘so much more love to give’?
And what about the adoption process from this third world country?
Who‘s vetting these applicants? Who is reviewing their dossier, which should include, among other things, a home-study from a licensed adoption agency, as well as medical evaluations from licensed physicians to determine the ability of each adoptive parent to truly PARENT adoptive children?
I’d say some things clearly fell through the cracks here. I wonder; how easy was it for her to throw in the towel? How many months of lost sleep did she have? Was it the same number of months that all new moms experience when their newborns are fussy throughout the night, or are teething, or are just awake for no reason at all?
How much of that year-plus stretch did she feel like she was ‘in over her head’? Do most moms not feel that way especially during those pre-teen and teenage years, and for some throughout the entire eighteen or more years before their children became adults?
She said her writing ‘all but stopped’. I just wonder; what did she expect? Is motherhood not a full time job? Especially when your children are two newly adopted adolescent girls from a third world country?
The sadness I feel for those girls who began a new life, in a new country, in a new home, with a new mom… only to be uprooted and sent on to yet another new life, in a new state, in another new home, with another new mom…it makes me wonder how their own memoirs might read. Will they feel blessed to have been adopted by a woman who intended to be a mom, but after becoming sleep deprived, decided to pass them along as a ‘gesture of love’?
I wonder going forward if WPA will write about these years, and if so, how she will put them into words so that her followers will understand. After all, she is a master of memoir, highly published, but at what cost?
Personally, I believe that WPA had a teensy inkling all along…she’d already clued us in when she wrote that she had ‘more life wisdom at long last, perhaps.’
Umm, Perhaps Not. But that’s just my POV. What’s yours? Honestly, I’d like to know.
Really liked what you had to say in your post, When International Adoption Is Perhaps Not For You. Life and Other Turbulence, thanks for the good read!
Thanks, Dina! Not sure how your very kind comment slipped by me a few months ago, but I do appreciate your taking the time to not only read my essay, but to let me know you enjoyed it as well. Blogging is one of those things where you know folks are stopping by your posts, but until you receive a comment, you have no idea whether they find them of interest or not. Glad you enjoyed this one!