Last weekend, Jenn, Nolin and I had a chance to speak to a class of perspective adoptive parents through Catholic Charities about our experiences with open adoption and interracial adoptions. We feel so blessed to have the experiences that we have had and more importantly to have Nolin in our lives that I was extremely excited to be able to share this with others.
It was very interesting to walk into a room of strangers, but instantly have a connection based on our choice of adoption. I talked about how we came to meet our birth mother, spend time in the hospital with her and why it was important to us to be able to have her be involved in some aspect of Nolin’s life. I have always said that the two days in the hospital when Nolin was born, were the most exciting and scariest moments of my life. Meeting with Nolin’s birth parents always brings me right back to the excitement and happiness of those days.
Jenn spoke about why we chose interracial adoption and how confidence in that decision will help others feel comfortable in embracing it. As an interracial adoptive parent we were told that there may be a time in our lives when an individual makes a comment that is uncomfortable or even ugly. These comments may be intentional or unintentional, but we both feel that if you are confident with your decision this can help dictate how to handle these situations appropriately. We have found that if it is not an issue for you, it most likely will not be an issue for those around you.
Our counselors helped us understand that there may be people in our lives that could be apprehensive about our decision to adopt for various reasons, but we haven’t found that to be the case. Nolin is the greatest blessing we could have asked for.
The one thing that our day did magnify was the fact that there are so many different faces and stories in the adoption triad. There were several families we spoke to that were already parents. I was very intrigued by one man who had an 18 month old daughter, but has always wanted to adopt interracially because of a friend he had in grade school. It is true that you will never realize how much of an impact you may have on someone else’s life even in minor interactions.
Unfortunately there are also tragic stories in the road to adoption. Several couples had faced years of unsuccessful infertility treatments, while another couple had experienced multiple still-born births. Some couples still may not have fully processed their grief over infertility, while others were so excited to move to the next step.
During our journey, I think Jenn and I fit into the excited group. We were very lucky because our journey was not as long and tumultuous as many others. We found out pretty quickly and easily that biological children would probably not be in our future, so we were able to move on. Luckily it was something that we had discussed in the past and for both of us it was sort of a non-issue.
I have always looked at our adoption story as a different road to the same destination. Sure there are some things we didn’t have a chance to experience, but it is also exciting that there are many experiences that we have enjoyed that are unique to our family.
Great post, Patrick, although it did bring to mind a question: You mention that there are times when someone makes a comment that is “uncomfortable or even ugly.” I’m curious about whether or not you notice any generational tendencies at work. Are those types of comments more likely to come from older people? I am guessing — and hoping — that that’s a factor and would be interested to hear if I’m correct.
George, you are correct, I think it is a really interesting question and social commentary to explore. While I originally set out to use the blog to keep friends and family up to date on what has become a very interesting family and sort of make fun of my transition from a clueless husband desperately holding on to his youth to a clueless father trying to figure it all out, I also hope that at some times I can offer some helpful insight to others about adoption.
Before going through the process I had a lot of my own misconceptions about what it meant to be an adoptive parent. I hope you don’t mind a fairly long winded response, but your question actually makes for a nice (and the first) opportunity for me to add a foot note to one of my posts, clarify my experiences a little more and hopefully create an opportunity for others to start a dialogue in their own lives.
In regards to interracial adoptions, I think that I may not have delivered an accurate statement from our experiences. We were told and also expect that we should probably be prepared that there will be times that may be uncomfortable or even ugly, but we really haven’t experienced any of those situations thus far. I am sure a portion of that is the result of the people we have chosen to have in our lives. We are prepared, and I am sure as Nolin gets older he may have questions or things may be said that will present us with these situations, but so far that has not been the case. I also think that some of these questions or comments may come up simply because of adoption and not necessarily just the result of race.
For Jenn and I, we have never seen Nolin as anything other than our son, and to my own surprise (if I am being honest) I really don’t give much attention to race (except to be jealous that he has much better skin than I do). I think that this attitude coupled with the fact that we live in an area surrounded by diversity, different languages, cultures, etc. makes it even less of a factor. For this I am eternally grateful because I couldn’t imagine if we lived in an area or time where it was an issue.
In our experiences, any interactions have actually been very innocent and typically kind of amusing. For instance, one of the foster children from Boys Town saw Nolin and said, he doesn’t look like you, he looks Hispanic and cute…didn’t know if that was her identifying with him because he was Hispanic, or her informing me that I was in fact not cute. But I then proceeded to tell her that Nolin was adopted and a little about the process to which we brought him home which she thought was awesome. For some adoptive parents, they may not be comfortable identifying their child as adopted, for me I embrace it and I hope that as he gets older, I am able to instill this acceptance in Nolin too. I think as a parent of any child this is the best that we can do.
If and when the day comes that situations do occur, I hope to be able to use these moments as a learning opportunity to clear up any misconceptions that an individual may have. Jenn, Nolin and I are lucky because we are in no way groundbreakers in this area and these days there are so many interracial families that most people simply don’t seem to pay attention to it or question it.
As for the older generation, I would love to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think a lot of older people have grown up during times of change and have embraced it. When I told my grandmother about Nolin, she simply stated “That’s fantastic” without skipping a beat. There were no questions; there was no doubt, simply acceptance. To her, Nolin was perfect before she ever met him. I’d like to think that is the way we all view any individual.