January 27, 2009

What's In a Name?

Shakespeare tells us that a rose by another other name still smells as sweet. True. But, names are very personal. And when you don’t have full control over naming your child—something that couples who biologically birth their kids have probably never thought off—that, well, kind of stinks.

There are arguments for both sides. Adoption agencies often promise birth moms naming rights, in an effort to help make the difficult, selfless decision to place a child for adoption just a little less difficult. I can understand that, I can. But at the same time, this will be your child. You will be raising this child and calling them by their given name for life. What if you can’t get behind the name a birth mother chooses?

In an ideal (adoption) world, birth moms and forever families (as we fondly refer to ourselves) come up with a name—or two, first and middle—together. But still, for what ever reason, naming is a sacred “right,” or so we are taught to believe, and even a privilege bestowed upon us as parents. It is not something taken lightly, for most people (your average celebrity not withstanding). So yes, it is sad and it does stink when we can’t name our own children. And yes, of course I am happy to have a child, so does it really matter that child’s name? (I’m a little tired of hearing comments from well-intentioned friends and family, can you tell?) It does matter, a little.

To Shakespeare’s credit, we will always love our child(ren) no matter if their name is Pilot Inspektor (actor Jason Lee’s son) or Ella, but there is just something about being able to give the gift of a name to your child. Something magical and wonderful. Though, by the same token—even though it would not have been my first choice—our birth mother gave our daughter her middle name, and that is a great gift our daughter will always have from her birth mother (we were able to give our daughter her first name, the name we call her by).

So then, why is it so important to have control over naming our children? Is that it, an issue of “control?” I’m not sure I can answer that. I think it’s the personal aspect of the whole thing. You spend all this time conjuring up a name for your child—possibly a family name, maybe one you’ve made up, or even one from your favorite character in a book—and then to be told, “Sorry. Yes this is your child, but she’s been named for you.” That stings a little.

But hey, welcome to the world of adoption, where the pros most definitely, hands-down out-weigh the cons by a mile, but the cons offer ups some scenarios you might not have ever considered.

January 09, 2009

Still Sad After All These Months

It’s been five months since we didn’t bring home Ava’s birth sibling. And it still hurts. Even though I am a firm believer in that you and the baby meant to be yours will find each other, it still sucks waiting. Especially when everything indicated that we would be bringing home a son last August.

Now we wait, and debate whether or not to look at different agencies since the one we are working with doesn’t place many children of color. As much as we want a boy, more importantly, we don’t want Ava to be the only family member of a different color. Maybe she couldn’t care less when she gets older, (she’s too young to understand now), but I feel very strongly about adopting another child of color. Not just black (although that is probably my preferred choice), Hispanic, mixed race, or the like is okay by us.

This is not meant to offend anyone or make anyone feel sorry for us, but people who have not adopted, have no idea what it’s like to not know when you might have a child. To not know whether or not you can name that child (think about it—naming is hugely important and when you adopt, you don’t always get to name your child). To have little or no control over most aspects of starting or growing your family. There is so much more, so much, that people adopting have to go through just to get on a waiting list, but it's too exhuasting to list it all out.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself—I wouldn’t change my experience for anything in the world; I have the most wonderful, beautiful, and amazing child there is (of course I’m bias!). And some might try to argue that couples going through infertility treatments are in the same boat. (I will have to respectfully disagree, and perhaps touch on that at a later date). But the waiting, the not knowing, the uncertainty, it hurts.

Adopting is tough; you have to be a strong person. But it is worth it. An interesting, heart-breaking, up-lifting, unique journey that is making me a better person. Or so I tell myself.

January 08, 2009

Hair, There, and Everywhere

Is it because of my daughter’s beautiful curls or the fact that she’s black and I’m white that so many people stop us to talk about her hair? It is beautiful (according to our good friend and neighbor, whom my daughter calls grandma and who is an African American woman, Ava’s hair is a grade of curl many black women pay to try to achieve).

For the most part, we have received positive comments from both black and white people. Only once did a woman mutter a negative comment under her breath, which I called her on, and we had a “discussion” in the middle of a store. I couldn’t say what I would have liked to say back to her, as Ava was with me and how I react is how she will learn to react to stranger’s comments about our “different” looking family and the like. So, I flashed my pearly whites and took the old adage, kill ‘em with kindness.

I was upset and shaking afterward, but I know things like that are bound to happen, unfortunately. When I spoke with my neighbor about it later, she was pretty appalled and told me just to ignore the comment, because the lady clearly had no idea what she was talking about. She’d accused me of not taking care of my daughter’s hair, when in fact, my daughter’s hair is well taken care of and in fantastic shape.

But what strikes me as interesting is that while occasionally (but very rarely) do I hear people comment on a white child’s hair (interestingly, I have only heard people comment on white kids with curly hair), I have never heard anyone say anything negative about a white kids hair. And look around. I’m not afraid to say it, there are some white kids out there who look like they haven’t combed their hair in weeks, with lopsided ponytails and some serious bedhead. So why doesn't anyone comment on that? Beside the fact that it's just out-right rude...

It is something to think about: are people commenting on Ava’s hair because it’s beautiful or because they're curious if a white woman can care for a black child’s hair? I’m sure I’ll be commenting on this a lot, as I continue to educate myself on the best ways to care for Ava's hair (yes, I actually do educate myself; I make no assumptions).

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite sites for Ava’s hair care products (I have ordered from all of these and love their all-natural, paraben and SLS free products):

Blended Cutie’s Hair Care (by Blended Beauty)
Carol's Daughter

It Takes Two...

I was recently asked to write a book review for Adoption Mosaic, the fantastic organization for which I serve on the program committee. I chose to write about And Tango Makes Three, a wonderful book about Roy and Silo, two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, who have been a couple since 1998.

In a nutshell, it’s a story about the love it takes to be a family. Penguin couples can generally only care for one egg at a time, so in 2000, when another penguin couple laid two eggs, Roy Gramzay, their keeper, gave one egg—and Roy and Silo—a chance to be a family.

Roy and Silo watched the other penguins build a nest and hatch an egg, then did the same with the egg Mr. Gramzay brought to them. They take turns caring for the egg and one day it hatches. Mr. Gramzay named the baby Tango, “because it takes two to make a Tango.” Tango is the first penguin at the zoo to have two daddies.

While working on my review, out of curiosity, I went to Amazon to see what other readers had to say about the book and I came across this lovely gem by “conservative mother”:

“This is disgusting. What is the world coming to when we have filth like this being given to our children. All this book is going to do is confuse them!”

(did I mention it's a book about penguins?!)

As a parent, and especially an adoptive parent, I was furious. This is simply a story about family bonds, and the dedication and determination Roy and Silo exhibit during their quest to raise a family. This story will help introduce children to the different ways families are created—an extremely important thing in today’s culture where families are made up of parents of different colors, two moms or two dads, and so on.

Of course I had to post a response:

“What a sad world for children to grow up in when someone finds a book about wanting to be a family ‘disgusting.’ This wonderful true story teaches children that families and love come in all different packages (think adoption, single parents, being raised by grandparents). The only ‘filth’ are comments of intolerance such as yours that have no place in a book review. My child (who happens to have been adopted) loves this book and is not the least bit confused by it.”

So, there you have it. I recommend this book to anyone—it’s a wonderful story.