Something To Consider When Talking About Adoption: An Adoptive Parent's Perspective

Adoptive mother abroad

Lost pregnancies, tracking cycles, scheduled sex, and injecting hormones strong enough to take down a race horse – it’s enough to make you want to… who knows… something terrible. Something unspeakable.  Well, I see you.  My four miscarriages make me one of you, and I have also spent many tearful nights supporting ladies like you who are struggling with infertility. I will not subject you to another round of hair-pats, or offer bizarre platitudes about things happening for a reason. I would, however, like to talk to you about something marginally more fun: transracial adoption.

Did you give an exasperated sigh when I said that? I feel like you might have. Maybe you’ve already built a case against whatever you think I may say in your head: Adoption is so expensive, and you’ve already suffered enough emotional trauma to last the rest of your life. Exhausting finances on top of it all is so not an option. And what about that Lifetime movie where a birth mother knocks on the adoptive parents’ door to reclaim her child? You would prefer that kind of drama to remain out of your life and in your TV. Or maybe your most tried and true argument against transracial adoption is the simplest of all: you don’t know what your friends and family might think of you having a child of a different race, and you really don’t want to find out.

As an adoptive white mother to two, beautiful, black babies, I can do virtually nothing to help if the cost of adoption is prohibitive to you, but I can say any preconceived notions of adoption based on inaccurate chick-flicks are, well, horribly inaccurate. And if finances are not a barrier to pursuing transracial adoption but your family and friends are, you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands than figuring out how to build your own family.

I know what I am saying has all the risks of coming across as static, especially with today’s exhausting political climate, but as I meet each new day with my two fabulous kids (Ambrose, 2; Isadora, 4 months), I find myself wanting to reach people who share the shoes I wore before my husband and I welcomed our babies into our lives.  I do not think I am better than you because I now have children. I also don’t think that I am ready to conquer the world’s racism just because I have two kids with more melanin than I do. I am a normal mom, with a normal family. My toddler tantrums when he can’t have chocolate for dinner, and has recently learned to crawl out of his crib and roam the halls of our home, which is equal parts fascinating and terrifying at 3 a.m. My infant is only now sleeping for stretches longer than 2 hours, which is great news for the bags under my eyes.  But even on their worst, tear-filled and sleepless days, I am grateful: after so much physical pain and emotional grief in pursuing biological children, Ambrose and Isadora --- two very different kids with two very different biological families of their own --- made my husband and me parents, and for that we are joyful.  Let’s face it, the world could use more joy right now, and I want so badly for you and your partner to have it too.

I can’t tell you that your fears of what others may think of your transracial family are totally unfounded; we have had strangers attempt to touch Ambrose’s hair at the grocery store, and others ask how much Isadora cost. We have had to break ties with long-time friends, after seeing what they support and share on social media. It’s definitely racist, absolutely cringe-worthy, and the kind of problem that wouldn’t exist for us if we had adopted white children. But if it wasn’t happening to us, it would still be happening to another transracial family, and I think we can all be honest in acknowledging it happens to black families every day. This is wrong, and it needs to stop. I firmly believe that we as white women pursuing motherhood are the ones to stop it, and I am here to rally the troops. It’s time we take our privilege and do something productive with it.

You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be honest. Ambrose’s birth mother, despite choosing us specifically to raise her son, voiced concerns that we were white; the irony of a hipster couple leaving Central California for Central Virginia with her baby was not lost on her. Isadora’s birth mother still drinks in a prominent “black lives matter” tattoo on my arm with a laughing eye roll every time I see her. To these strong black women in my life, I am definitely a stereotypical white girl who tries too damn hard. But they also know that I love their children to the core of my being, and that I will fight to protect them until the day I die.  They recognize and respect this trait in me because it is something the three of of us share, despite having very little in common otherwise. It is also something that is deep inside of you; it is a seed that was planted during the first trip to the bathroom that left you bloody and reeling, or at the appointment when the doctor couldn’t make eye contact as they delivered the news of another failed cycle.

It is true that you could explore the wonderful world of motherhood with the help of a white birth family. But that wait is long, and if you and your partner are anything like my husband and I, you may hear a soft rumbling inside of you when you tune out the scary unknowns of your social circle; the rumbling will become a thunderous roar that leaves you knowing in your heart of hearts that you don’t care about appearances, and that you just want to parent.

When we excitedly began working with Adoption Network Law Center to pursue an adoption open to all races, my husband and I knew very little about race relations in our country; we just knew that we had a diverse social circle, and we knew we wanted open adoptions so our kids could maintain a connection to their roots, and we hoped that would be enough. Suffice to say, it was not enough. We were not prepared for how deeply we would feel each and every shooting of a black man or woman at the hands of police brutality. Ambrose is only two years old, and I am already formulating how I will teach him not to cut through neighbors’ yards wearing a hoodie on the way home from school, just in case. As a descendant of slaves of Robert E. Lee, Isadora’s birth mother is already working with me, planning how to tackle future family tree projects when she enters school… more than five years from now. In so many ways, my husband and I find ourselves scrambling to understand how something as simple as skin color can alienate an entire community of people, and we often feel hopeless and helpless and in over our heads.  At the same time, I want so badly to do right by these fantastic kids; and so I am trying to fix my little corner of the world. I participate in a racial justice group in my community; I converted from Catholicism to Unitarian Universalist because of their strong message of social justice and diverse congregation; I am already involving myself in school groups to increase the support of black students and decrease the amount of suspensions and expulsions of children of color for things that wouldn’t even get a white kid detention.

Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it way more than my husband and I bargained for two years ago, when we decided we would be willing to adopt transracially? You betcha. But at the end of each and every day, I am lucky enough to put two kids to bed that love me to the moon, and it is the best feeling in the entire world. I want you to have what I have. And, yes: I want you to know that adopting transracially could very well mean trimming the fat from your friends list, literally and figuratively – but it is something that should be done regardless. It’s time.

By: Kate & Andy