|aren't they just adorable?|
These twins seem to be the latest in the bad adoption news coming out of Russia. These 15 month old babies were allegedly left on a freezing Russian Street by their American adoptive mother with a note stating she had given them up. Children are not to be discarded, people. Birth mothers may "give up" their children but they normally do so with a plan. It is important that you understand the difference. I am not bashing responsible birth mothers who are realistic enough to know they cannot parent their child and make a plan, out of love. I am eternally thankful to the two birth mothers I will never know who gave me the best gifts of my life, my boys.
Statistics are all over the place but I can say with some confidence that there are approximately 700,000 children living in Russian orphanages and foster homes. And that is just one country. There are children needing parents all over the world, including right here in America. And there are families working their way through the adoption process as you read this, families for whom the adoption process may now be stalled or totally stopped altogether. Because of the actions of adoptive parents like the mother mentioned above these 700,000 children may never find their forever families.
As someone who has made this adoption journey I can tell you that the blame lies in a variety of places. Maybe the adoption agency didn't thoroughly explain the issues often related with bringing an institutionalized child into your home. Maybe the required pre adoption parenting classes didn't cover bonding and behavior management as well as they should have. Maybe the orphanage wasn't able to create an atmosphere in which children learn what it's like to feel love. Maybe the adoptive parents wanted a child so badly that they chose to ignore the warnings of what all can go wrong. One thing is obvious- these parents, and others, like Torry Hansen, were not prepared. And they were not invested in becoming the kind of parent a child needs in order to be prepared for life.
I can say this because it happened to me. I wasn't 100% prepared for my tiny toddler. I had his room ready and the baby toys had been brought up from the basement, washed, and added to the toy box. The tiny clothes had been put into the drawers in the baby's new room and his older brother had been prepared for the new addition to the family. I had taken the classes and my adoption agency had been very clear about the issues we may face. I had read the books and, maybe most importantly, I had done this once before. I knew how to parent, I knew how to bond, I was confident in my abilities to mother my new son. But in hind sight, I was not 100% prepared.
Our second adoption journey was very different from our first one. The paperwork was different. The hoops we had to jump through were a little higher. The trips were a little more difficult and the things we saw were a little harder to see. And I was just as naive as I was the first time around. I expected that if I followed the rules about bonding and just loved this child, the outcome would be just as amazing as it was the first time, with our oldest son. And I was wrong.
Maybe it was post adoption depression, which I firmly believe I was experiencing for months after returning home. Maybe it was the fact that the tiny toddler was 9 months older than his brother was when he came home. It may not sound like a long time but the difference between a 15 month old baby and a 24 month old toddler can be astounding. Maybe it was the lifestyle differences; the tiny toddler had more ability to roam around his little hallway at the orphanage and had experienced the need to fight for food and toys and love. The big five year old had been taught from birth to sit quietly in his crib and wait for the busy nanny to hand him a bottle or carry him to the bath. It is quite possible that he rarely played with toys or spent time with the other babies in a social setting. One learned to cling to love when it was offered and one learned to fight and push it away.
So I was caught off guard, initially, when we opened our front door off that plane from Russia and walked into what felt like someone else's life. But I had been prepared, at least a little. I had the knowledge to solve the problem and I had the resources to help me. I, like 90% of adoptive parents, did what had to be done. I got a handle on the situation. I worked with my husband. I learned to walk away when the frustration got to be too much. I learned to take deep breaths while holding the refrigerator door closed when the little guy wanted to dump it's contents on the floor. I learned to duck from his swinging arms and to hold him so he could see my eyes but couldn't hit me. I had never done those things before. Teaching a toddler to trust and love when he had been burned every time he gave that trust away before was the hardest thing I have ever done. And there are days that I feel I'm not done yet. But through all of it, I never once thought that I made a mistake. I never once thought of not parenting this child. I am his mother. Period. I shed a lot of tears, but through it all, I loved him.
And I am nothing special. I am no different from nearly every other adoptive mother out there. We all understand that there is no difference between biological children and adoptive ones. We know that you get what you get. We know that behavior and health issues could pop up at any time and just because we adopted our child doesn't mean we have any less responsibility.
We fight for our right to parent our children like every other mother. We get upset when we are referred to as "adoptive parents" or when we are asked if our children are "real". We stand up for our rights when the hospital wants us to show the court paperwork that proves our child is ours. We point out that biological parents don't have to prove these things. We cringe when our children are introduced by their adoption status or birth country. "This is Matthew, he's from China." ugg. You never hear, "This is little Johnny, he was born in Akron, Ohio at Akron General Hospital." Yes, we have a lot to fight for, where our kids are concerned. And we do it gladly, because we love our kids. But we can't have it both ways. We can't fight for equality if we don't perceive our children as truly "ours". And it is obvious that the adoptive parents who make the news, the ones who hurt their kids or try to "give them back" do not feel the same way.
Help is out there. There are books and doctors and social workers and other mommies who have been there. There is somewhere to turn. There is never a reason to do anything to hurt your kids. And make no mistake, no matter how they came into your life, they are your kids. As my big five year old often says, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Well said, little man.