My husband and I are nearing the end of a four-year-long adoption process. I met my daughter while volunteering in a children’s home in the summer of 2009, and we have been working through the red tape to get her here with us ever since. International adoption has its own unique joys and challenges. For my family, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A conspicuous family
My husband and I are white. Our daughter is black. This means that when we go out in public, people will know just by looking at us that we are not all biologically related. Sometimes, trans-racial families are exposed to the ugliness of the reality of racism. Sometimes, well-meaning and curious strangers ask inappropriate questions. We need to be equipped not only to deal with these people, but to help our daughter form her own racial and cultural identity so that when people do make remarks she can stand strong in the knowledge that who she is is valuable. One of the ways we have tried to do this is by reading up on her country’s history and culture. We keep art pieces from Sierra Leone in our home and own West African clothing.
Because we stand out, people will also assume that our daughter is adopted. People can, on accident or on purpose, say some very hurtful things about adoption. We have tried to educate the people in our lives in order to avoid hurtful terminology. Before our daughter came home, we created a packet of information and sat down with the VIP’s in our lives (who would be most involved in our daughter’s life) and had a “family meeting” to go over questions. In our packet of information, we talked about proper adoption terminology (such as “bio parents” or “first parents” instead of using hurtful language like “real parents”). We also talked about challenges that our daughter might face in the adjustment period, such as food issues and attachment, and ways that they could support her and us as we deal with those challenges.
Adoption is a long and confusing process. Many people are interested in adoption. As soon as you become an adoptive parent, people will come to you with their questions. I love to help people who are considering adoption with their questions, but sometimes, it would be nice to be thought of as just another parent. Adoptive parents are often expected to speak on behalf of the process or to answer difficult questions.
A new community
This month will be my eighth visit and my husband’s third visit to my daughter’s native country.
I often tell people that my favorite part of international adoption is that, while you are adopting a child, the child’s home country really adopts you. I have learned so much about myself and the world by visiting my daughter’s home country. I have friends there now, and family. I’ve eaten new dishes, heard new music, visited new places, swam in new rivers, and learned words in new languages. My eyes have been opened to the most beautiful things, things that I never would have seen or experienced without international adoption.
We are blessed to know some members of our daughter’s bio family. We consider them our family now, and some of our closest friends.
I also have a new community of adoptive parents, transracial parents, and the people at the children’s home where my daughter lived before coming to the USA. When we added a child to our family through adoption, we also added so many other people and groups that have enriched our lives.
In the end, international adoption is difficult. There are so many government agencies, so much paperwork, so many fees. But for my family, I can say without hesitation that it was more than worth it.