Fierce protection and the things people say

A friend recently said to me:
“I wish I could just be my daughter’s mom rather than always being seen as the adoptive mom” – she is part of a transracial family.

She is her daughter’s mom. My heart aches at the fact that people struggle with this based on the appearance or how it started. Regardless of the reasons she chose to adopt.
Then I look at my friends who are in transracial families by virtue of marriage where my paler or blonde friends have coffee skinned dark haired babies. Or my coffee skinned friends have blonde babies –simply because of the way their genes mixed to produce their beautiful kids and I wonder if they get asked the same questions at times in terms of being conspicuous.

My heart aches at the fact that we need to think through how we are going to protect our children from ignorant, uninformed or unhelpful statements. My heart is already fiercely protective of my not yet known child, whose life challenges and growing up is going to be in a family that can’t wait to have him home and yet also has to recognise that by virtue of the fact that he is adopted, he is going to have extra work to do as a part of his life story.

My fierce protection extends to wanting to say the following:

Please don’t tell me that as soon as we adopt, then we will fall pregnant: We can fall pregnant. Yes, we have publicly shared about miscarriage but that doesn’t mean we have given up hope or can’t have biological babies. The medical reality is that we can fall pregnant and there is no known reason why we can’t have biological children if we choose to – but we choosing to go the adoption route first. This has always been part of our choice for our family. When you tell me that as soon as I adopt I will fall pregnant, the unspoken message I hear isn’t encouraging – in fact it makes things awkward. Awkward because I already want to protect my child. I hear and worry that my adopted child will hear: Being adopted is a second prize plan and my bio baby is the first & that’s not something any of us would want to be – a second prize.

Our choosing adoption is part of the first prize for our family. It always has been.

Please don’t make assumptions about our fertility as potential adoptive parents – some of my friends already have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my friends can’t have bio babies and have chosen to adopt. Some of my circles chose to adopt before even considering bio babies – not because they are somewhat noble or holier or something more than other mothers – simply as this is the story that they have chosen for their families. When we make assumptions about this – people are left needing to defend & protect themselves and their children – when people choose to fall pregnant and grow their families that way, we celebrate the new life. As a prospective adoptive parent, my choices are wrapped in layers of recognising that I potentially will be a mom but that there are challenges and losses amidst the celebration of family and life – perhaps ask if there is freedom to do so rather than assume why I am doing so & if there isn’t enough depth of relationship or I haven’t volunteered why I am doing this, then maybe we aren’t in a space to want to engage around this.

Good moms and dads want to protect their children against things that aren’t helpful to their growth and give them skills to manage the challenges that are a part of life. I never want my child to think that they are my 2nd prize – regardless of whether their younger siblings arrive from my tummy or through an adoption process. We all know life shoves enough at us along the way without adding that into the mix. Please help my child never feel obligated to me – we will belong to each other – not owe each other infinite gratitude for having each other. My gratitude is to God who models adoption for me. My gratitude is for a husband who was pro-adoption before I met him and in figuring out what we wanted life to be about as a family had adoption in the picture too. My child isn’t going to be lucky to have us. We are going to be blessed to have each other.

We are excited, and planning, and dreaming, and nervous as we continue with the screening and prep process. We are aware and processing some of the challenges of parenting – we have to do this differently simply because we get asked and assessed and guided and need to think things through that some pregnant parents do but many don’t.

I am grateful for a gracious husband. He gets this right in a way I struggle with. Often.

I am having to learn to say things differently, to listen more and work out whether humour, information giving to simply choosing not to respond is the best way forward in protecting my family and future family – rather than just seeking battle always.
I am grateful for the friends who pave the way before us and for those doing this with us and for the beautifully mixed world we get to live in.

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Motherhood: Permission to have 2 plan A’s

Motherhood – such a loaded term for some people. Can we do this, do we want to do this, how should we do this?

My first experience of motherhood was the privilege of being a ‘weekend’ mom/ big sister to a little guy who was my angel. He taught me that it was possible to love someone who I hadn’t carried from his beginning with a love that is still there and that I did indeed have the capacity to make decisions that were good for him; that I had the ability to nurture and want the best for a little person that for all intents and purposes couldn’t give anything back to me really. Yet gave me something that sometimes I can’t find words for – it just was this beautiful relationship which I had as a gift (with all its ups and downs) until he got his forever family. Honestly, I struggled to understand why when we have 4 million orphans in this country why anyone would choose to have a birth baby rather than adopt one because there are babies & children waiting to be loved?

My plan A was always to create a family, Lord willing (note the ‘my plan’ in this) via adoption. It wasn’t something that I had to wrestle with, or figure out. It just made sense. I was jealous of friends who were in a place to initiate their adoption process when I knew that from a screening point of view I wasn’t in a position to offer a small person what they needed. I was jealous of friends who announced their adoptions on facebook, in community groups. I missed having my little person with me who I celebrated having a forever family (for him) and yet had to grieve that it wasn’t me.

Then I got married to a wonderful man, to a man who believes in adoption & who is wanting to adopt, but is also wanting us to birth babies, Lord willing. This is his dream. This is something that matters to him. His ‘Plan A’ for family has always included both: birth children and adopted children. What a gift of a husband I have. What a challenge to me though to consider the possibilities of birth babies as well as adopted ones? In my head adoption was the plan A. It was hard to consider anything else.

Until I had this conversation with a friend whose plan A was always to have a birth baby until she was told for physiological reasons that this wasn’t an option. I thought that she would totally endorse my position. Except she didn’t. She listened to me. She let me weep. She let me express the depth of my thoughts, and a position which I didn’t know until then that I felt so strongly about; and then she challenged me. She challenged me on the fact that God gives children as blessings. She challenged me to rethink what my wonderful man was asking; she asked me to think about whether I was in a position to honour my husband and the potential gift of a birth baby and the experiences that come with that in terms of opening up aspects of my husband that only I potentially could. She affirmed the fact that adoption was still a part of the plan.

This opened up a 6 month process of me sitting with these questions. Praying with my husband, praying alone, praying with friends. And then we fell pregnant sooner than anticipated & despite not meeting this baby on this side of heaven, discovered that actually we are “fertile” and fortunate compared to so many we know. I also discovered that actually I do want to embrace the experience of growing a small person. I do want to share this with husband.

As I write this I have the honour of being a facilitator on a weekend of equipping parents who are adopting, have adopted and considering adoption. I spent time yesterday afternoon with a little boy who has been declared eligible for adoption and who in my heart I wish we could adopt. His eligibility for adoption came through 3 months after we were married. Seeing him yesterday, in a family style home, 2 years since I last saw him, reminded me again that he is so ready for a family. And my heart is still to have a child like him be a part of ours.

I am grateful to my friend for challenging, listening, holding and responding to a space which isn’t neutral for her. It’s a space which held pain. It’s a space which provoked her needing to look at what was previously her plan A and still being able to look at me with compassion.

Today I sit knowing that motherhood is allowed to have 2 plan A’s, each plan with its own celebrations and grief. Today I sit knowing that my journey is now an “Our Journey” and that it means we both have decisions and choices. Today I sit knowing that there aren’t guarantees about how our family is going to be shaped but I do know that motherhood is allowed to have 2 plan A’s,

Between I will and I do….the “baby” question

Getting married at this stage of my life has its definite advantages. There is much of what I wanted to achieve and do that has been done.  It also comes with its own challenges.  Challenges that one would expect like learning to let go of some independence, learning what inter-dependence looks like and figuring out how to share my space naturally with another, appreciating that when God says two are better than one and a cord of three isn’t easily broken, that the bonding of this cord happens as things are resolved (this means wrestling, stand offs, choices and inevitable conflict at times). Challenges as families shift in their understanding of each other and the way that we are involved in each other’s lives.

It also means that we learn to trust another’s involvement in our lives and our life choices:  not because the other is the “boss of me” but because the other actually cares about me and wants me to be a good “boss of me”.

One of the hardest things for me, especially as we have made choices not to live together, not to sleep together and are doing our courtship the “old school” Christian way of preparing for marriage- there is lots of anticipating and excitement, but also recognising that our first year of marriage may have lots of ‘refining moments’– is the fact the people frequently feel the need to tell me to hurry up and have babies because I am getting on…. (Open private speech bubble: It’s hard not want to ask you what you know about my ovaries or my fiancé’s reproductive capacity in these conversations: Close private speech bubble)

Thank you for believing that I will make a good mom.

Thank you for being interested in our lives.

And now I am going to thank you for trusting that this is something that my fiancé and I have spoken about; have prayed about; have made choices about too.  A wise friend said to me when I voiced my frustration:  There isn’t only one way of having babies nowadays – and there are no guarantees regardless of age or planning or how much of a good parent one may potentially be. My Ouma had her last child at the age of 44, AFTER a mastectomy and a bout with breast cancer.  He is perfectly healthy.  Yes, the risks are there.  Yes, it may be harder but it also may be easier for me than for some of my other friends who have done EVERYTHING right – they eat well, they keep their body fat at the optimal percentage, they exercise, they LOVE children and they have a supportive community around them and yet, I know their heartaches and things just not happening despite trying for months at the optimal age. Not just one friend – numerous friends! There are no guarantees in any of this.

It has been hard to know how to respond when the day we got engaged people started telling me I needed to start trying; or asking how long we planned on waiting because….well, you know, Lex, you are old; or going to an appointment with the lady doctor and being told to go home and make a baby now because the egg was in the perfect place according to the scan (She got asked to behave!).  It’s hard when I know that people don’t mean this badly. 

We would like to walk down the aisle first.  We would like to be in a position, where as a self-employed person, I don’t need to work for 3 months and we will be financially comfortable.  We would like to have memories of us 2 before we make memories of us 3 or us 4.  We also know that we want to choose a baby –regardless of whether we ‘make a bio-baby’ or not.

In the midst of all the pending changes, the last thing my heart, my brain and my body can cope with is the idea of being a mom on top of this all.  Yes, there are risks. We are risking joining 2 lives.  We are risking making decisions around careers and homes and futures as a couple.  We are risking giving up individual adventures to have a joint adventure.  Allow us to risk this well before we risk together with the life of another little person.  We want to risk for and with them. We want to love them well – more than well.

Just give us a little bit of time to get there!