Saturday, January 24, 2015

Richard Here: What Makes You Mine?

One common question we hear as adoptive parents is "how did you know that was the child for you?" or "why did you pick that child over another?" - while on the surface these questions are innocent enough, it does bring up the fact that the answer probably isn't as simple as the individual asking it thinks it is (especially when the person asking it hasn't adopted before).

We have now adopted 10 children, and the story behind each adoption is as different as each child. In a few cases there were "lightbulb moments" that convinced us that a specific child was meant to be part of our family however in other cases, the "selection" of a child was based on criteria that we were considering including age, gender, special needs, etc. Regardless of how the child was selected once the process is complete that child is as much a part of our family as every other child. Attachment and personality may create challenges, but the commitment to that child is as strong as it is for any of our children.

The really touchy-feely (and completely untrue) answer to all of this is that we both just instantly knew that every one of our adopted children belonged to us and was a necessary part of our family. The realistic answer is that this is not the case. Do spouses always agree on adoption? Heck no - in fact there's a common term called "reluctant husband syndrome" which is a common topic among spouses in Facebook groups and beyond. Which normally presents itself as "if only my husband would agree". Why is it that something as wonderful as adoption can turn into such a challenging and conflicting topic? If it's meant to be shouldn't both spouses be on the same level? Reality is that it's probably better that it isn't so simple... (and that's OK.)

Adoption is hard. Adoption and its associated baggage can really suck at times. Before anyone calls me mean names for saying that, please understand my perspective. Adoption starts with loss. For a child to be adopted, they have to have gotten the short end of the stick, either at birth or shortly thereafter. Can adoption turn out to be a great thing? Sure it can, but in most cases that's not without encountering and navigating through trauma, loss and anxiety related to the period between birth and (hopefully) settlement into the natural patterns of a family situation.

For our current adoption, the choice to adopt Jesse and Eli was both complicated and simple. We were not planning on adopting again, and especially not older boys. However, Jesse and Eli were adopted by us because they had been neglected by the system that was supposed to have helped them be adopted. Had they been made available for adoption at a younger age they probably would have been adopted seperately and split up. The way things worked out, they did not even become available for adoption until they were both twelve - and as older boys of Roma heritage, they had virtually no chance of being adopted in Bulgaria and only slightly more outside of Bulgaria. Furthermore, the chance of them being split up was extremely high - something which would be very traumatic for a pair of boys that has been together for as long as we can tell. We had known about them for years, ever since we had met them during our previous adoption trips. So relative to them we were in a unique position, we could afford to adopt them both, we could keep them together, and we could reunite them with Lily and Alexis, who grew up with Jesse and Eli as "orphanage siblings" before they were adopted by us several years ago.

Obviously we are not adopting two boys, but three. Gabe is not from the same city as Jesse and Eli, he is not the same age, and his special needs are not the same. So why did we adopt him? Because I felt it was the right thing to do. We knew we wanted to adopt three boys so after we had lined things up to adopt Jesse and Eli I started working with our agency to find another younger boy that we felt would fit in well in our family and that search ended when I saw some videos of Gabe. Gabe also comes from a slightly different background because he has been with a foster mother for a couple of years, which has allowed him to make progress and integrate into a loving home environment where he has a foster mother, foster grandmother as well as extended family. Gabe will retain those relationships throughout his life if he choses and much like our other children whose mothers are known to them (Alayna and Evan), he will likely live his life with two mothers - his Bulgarian mother, Viara and his forever mother, Valerie.

But let me tie this back to the question of who adopts when and why it can be such a conflicting topic between spouses. While I can't speak for all men, I think I can share my feelings and she some insight. Becoming an adoptive father is a VERY conscious decision - and going through the whole process isn't something that can really be done "lightly" and I think this is what historically has caused the most conflict on the topic between Valerie and I. We don't argue about adoption because neither of us cares - we argue because we both care very much. She cares about the future of our family, and so do I - both from completely different perspectives. These perspectives often conflict with each other and can be driven by fear, doubt or uncertainty. When Valerie and I have disagreed on who to adopt, or whether to adopt, it hasn't been because either of us didn't care what the other said, it was because we had our own concerns that we had to work through. Sometimes those concerns changed whether or not we adopted, or even who we chose to adopt - but in the end it all works out and the children we welcome into our family are the ones we are meant to have.

And as an aside, to anyone suffering through reluctant husband syndrome, hopefully it's because your husband cares - not because he doesn't.

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