Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Different Kind of Normal

There seem to be a few different camps from which people come in the adoption world. Those who have wanted to do this for forever and are completely convinced of what they are doing. Those who always vaguely thought it could be a cool thing but figured they'd see about it after having a few biological kids. Those who never gave it a thought, never assumed they'd have to and are now faced with the choice of either pursuing adoption or not becoming parents.  There might be others, but those are the three with which I've had contact. 

In the first two camps, it seems like there's often this romantic view of adoption. This beautiful picture of how God has loved us and adopted us and wouldn't it be awesome for us to bring a child into our family this way, a child who otherwise would likely have an awful life?  There's sometimes not really any understanding of the amount of grief an adopted child will have to work through, perhaps a callous view of birth parents and a subconscious assigning to them the label of "irresponsible", and an oversimplified understanding of what it will take to parent a child whose life story is, as some adoption books call it, a "different kind of normal."  

If you've followed my blog, you know we probably fall into that second camp. The couple who was never totally convinced we planned to do this but had it vaguely on the radar, who loved the theological picture of adoption and thought that this could be a really great way to grow our family...someday.  When faced with years of secondary infertility, however, adoption was thrust into a very stark light. It became something that wasn't just a romantic possibility, but a very present reality if we wanted to see our family grow.  Suddenly, it became very important to really know what this entailed - to break out of some of the romance and really see what it will take to be good adoptive parents. One the one hand, to be reminded that there is most certainly something incredible and beautiful and deeply theological about the process. On the other hand, to be faced with statistics and trainings and books and articles all geared towards preparing us for that different kind of normal. How to talk to your adoptive child about his or her life story and birth parents, how to answer blatantly ignorant questions on the playground or at the mall about the demographics of your family, what type of openness to choose, whether to interim foster the child you adopt or go with direct placement and, of course, the particular challenges and opportunities with transracial adoption.

It seems like everyone has an opinion on these issues. Many people have audibly breathed a sigh of relief that we are going with an infant adoption because "the child will bond more easily with you."  Maybe so, maybe not. Everyone wants to ask the question about transracial adoption but many people don't have the words to put the question to us.  A lot of people have questions about the extra challenges of the teen years in raising a child who is not your own race in a country that is highly racialized.  How do you help them form identity? What will you do if they resent you from taking them from their "culture"? These are questions we have heard and questions we have had to wrestle with as well.  The thing I've learned is that many of the stereotypes I had about adoptive children and parents are false and much of my own ignorance seems to be pretty widespread. People have lots of concerns, but a lot of them are often based on hearsay or the assorted story they've heard in the news.  But how many of us, unless we're actively pursuing this, have really read the literature?  I certainly had not.  Especially not on the topic of transracial adoption.

The topic of transracial adoption is really one for a series of posts. It is loaded. There are advocates, there are proponents. There are transracially adopted children who would testify that this was a great experience for them and others who would atttribute a lot of difficulties in their own life to having been brought up in a "white" home but not being white themselves.  The fact is, there are differences in raising a child of another ethnicity than ours- not differences in how we will love them or what we will teach them about life, but things we will need to be aware of about who they are, what society says about them because of their ethnicity and what challenges will face them as they grow that our white son may never face. In fact, in going the route of adopting a child of color, we will have to go through some very specific trainings that adoptive parents adopting a white child will not have to do.  Clearly there are big differences, even in a world that often likes to talk about the beauty of the melting pot or "all God's children" and then say that love will cover over anything we could possibly do wrong.

Like I said, this topic alone could and likely will be, a series of posts in the near future.

For now let me say this:  parenthood is full of surprises and unknowns.  You don't know who you'll get from your own uterus and you don't know who you'll get from another woman's.  This process is teaching me to hold some expectations very loosely and to cling to certain truths all the more tightly. 

Our family will be a different kind of normal- we have no idea of knowing what that will look like despite all our trainings and adoption plans and intentions.  We just know it will be. And that that different kind of normal will be beautiful, hilarious, painful, nerve-wracking and unexpected, just like making a family has been up to this point.        


  1. It's going to be a great journey - thanks for letting us in on it.

  2. The child you get is going to be blessed with a loving mother and father and a fantastic big brother. They will thrive in that environment and just like Josh will take you on a grand adventure. I look forward to watching it all unfold.