April 28, 2008. Danang Social Sponsoring Center, Vietnam.
In light of what is happening with Russian Adoptions, the JCIS has asked families to celebrate their successes by sharing their adoption stories on their blogs today as part of their “We are the Truth Campaign.”
International adoption can often seem frightening and full of unknowns–but with good parent education and awareness–it is still an amazing way to build a family. Here is our story:
It feels like this is where my world began. Above is the first view of my son. After a year of paperwork and nearly 6 months of nail-biting while waiting for CIS approval, Jeremy and I traveled across the world to the beautiful country of Vietnam to meet our baby boy.
We became a family that day–and I will be grateful to the government of Vietnam forever for allowing us to be Morgan’s parents.
Our first days with our new baby were both joyful and sad at the same time–he grieved heavily for his nanny, who cried hard on the day of our giving and receiving and carried him to the car not wanting to let go. It was obvious that he was loved and had been well cared for during his ten months at the orphanage. It broke my heart, and I remember trying to tell her that I would always be there for him and love him…but finding these words inadequate in the face of her pain.
On the other hand, there was this overwhelming joy to hold Morgan and to be parents at last. We delighted in taking him around the city as we discovered Vietnam together. I remember being sad that he would not remember this incredible place where strangers asked to hold him and showed us so much kindness.
Morgan’s personality emerged over the next weeks and months and he fit well into our family–completely charming his grandparents and extended relatives. Our little guy has an impish grin and adorable sense of humor and embraced our family with love. It wasn’t always easy–there was teething to overcome and some sleep issues that left us puzzled and exhausted! We coped by blogging with other adoptive moms and reading books on attachment and bonding.
J and I learned that raising an adopted child differs from raising a biological child. We had taken classes prior to bringing Morgan home as part of our adoption requirements and they helped us to spot potential issues and to take action when we needed to.
Our son was incredibly clingy during those first few months and we used a sling to carry him close to our bodies and we did not put him down unless it was absolutely necessary. We put away his pack and play because it seemed to cause a lot of distress–we had seen them in the orphanage and wondered if he spent a lot of time in them while his nannies were busy attending other children. We loved him through this time and even spent most of our first year co-sleeping because Morgan was best reassured with one hand on Mommy and one on Daddy during the night. It was hard at times, but worth it!
Over the past 2 years as a family–we have grown together.
**I have kept silent about my feelings about the abandonment of a 7-year-old boy who was adopted from Russia. I don’t know his adoptive family or what they went through. However, in reading the news articles available, I know that his adoptive mom did not share her struggle with her agency nor did she seek help from outside social services before placing this little guy on a plane with a note and a bag of cookies and shipping him back to his home country.
If anyone learns anything from this tragedy–
Seek Help! There are services available for families struggling. Speak to your adoption agency or your licensed social worker who performed the home study/post placement visits.
Investigate local resources: Our son was eligible for Early Childhood Intervention free of charge. They provided speech and occupational therapy to us but they also offer psychological help, skilled nursing, physical therapy, and more.
Do your homework: Adoption is not the same as giving birth and there are many unknowns. We spent nearly a year researching countries alone. We made decisions based on likelihood of mother’s drug use, length of time spent in institutionalized care, stability of the country, etc. Talk to parents of adopted children and seek out groups online or in your area that are forums for adoptive parents to communicate. Walking in blind is never a good idea.
Be prepared/realistic: Your baby might not look anything like you imagined or behave as you expected. Just as a biological child can develop autism or illness–these things happen in adoption as well. There are no guarantees in life. We were asked to close our eyes and picture our baby in one of our classes–and then we were shown photographs of children in orphanages. Babies who are dirty, lethargic, malnourished, covered in bug bites and scabs, all races and ethnicities…crying…and it helped us prepare. Our own son was clean, but showed signs of dehydration and lethargy on the day we met him. He had a huge bug bite on his head that was infected and looked very sad and distressed when we took him from the only caregivers he had known.
Read everything you can about the culture of the country you choose, the children available, the age group that you are adopting. Learn what is common for adoptions from that area. Find other families that you identify with as well as those who have much more experience than you. I now have a close group of blogging friends who adopted around the same time we did as well as the knowledge of many “large families” who have spent years adopting and raising children from institutions/foster care. In addition, I spoke to friends and former classmates who were adopted and keep in touch on different issues and questions that arise.
Be a Parent: Put the needs of that child above your own. Go in with your eyes and heart open–knowing that it may not be easy and that surprises could lie ahead. We are their legal parents and it is our responsibility to do right by our children. That means that you don’t cause further harm. Their health, happiness, and safety lies in your hands. If they need resources, extra help–find it. Make it happen because you are the adult and that is your job.
If you posted today–please link your story in the comments! I would love to share them.
I found this parent’s post today and it made me smile.