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Monday, August 1, 2011

A Shower of Reality ... Sort Of

I probably haven't mentioned this, what with all that's been going on, but our family is attending a new church.  It's not only new to us, it's relatively new in general, currently hosting worship services in the cafeteria of a local school, although they recently broke ground on an actual building.  We switched churches mostly for the Tongginator's sake - she wanted to attend services with children she went to school with.

How could we argue with that?

So we looked closer to home, just a few months before traveling to China to adopt.  I felt nervous about our decision, seeing as how we received little support from most in our social circle when we adopted the Tongginator in 2005.  Looking for a new church home during the months between adoption referral and travel didn't seem like such a bright idea to me.

I shouldn't have worried.

We found a new church home relatively quickly.  And our new faith community embraced our family wholeheartedly, reaching out to us in countless ways during these tough months of transition.  We've received cards and phone calls, as well as genuine support (both emotional and practical) from people we know and people we don't know.  Several ladies within the church leadership even hosted a toddler shower for me, with several dozen attendees - some of whom had met me only once or twice.

I couldn't believe it.

The shower happened this past Thursday night.  A few days before the shower, the hostess called to ask if I minded sharing our family's adoption story with the attendees.  I didn't mind at all, and in fact felt thrilled to do so, since we are excited to talk about how God moved in our lives during this time.  (No, I don't believe my child was born solely so that I could adopt her, but I do feel that God had a hand in bringing us together as a family once the separation from her first family occurred.)  I've always said that I felt God had Big Plans for our adoption travel group, which is one of the reasons we remained in the non-special needs line, but I don't know if I shared all that occurred with y'all.

Originally we expected to adopt a second time alongside travel-mates from our first adoption trip, plus a family from our same hometown.  Then that family from our hometown chose a different path to parenthood.  There were times during our wait that I seriously doubted our course, y'all, especially when I first learned about our favorite "drop-outs."  But when we received TA back in May, all of those doubts fled.  Because, while we didn't travel with the hometown family we originally expected to adopt alongside, we DID travel with a different hometown family with a May 2006 LID who experienced travel delays.

A different hometown family who was already connected to the Tongginator.

(Their niece is in the Tongginator's Brownie troop.)

(I know.)

I also have to mention the random family from Pennsylvania who showed up in Guangzhou during our last week there.  They skipped the three-day tour because the adoptive mom used to live in Beijing, so we met them over breakfast in the White Swan Hotel.  Turns out my momma's best friend, who moved to Maryland less than a decade ago, is close friends and a former neighbor of the parents of the new adoptive dad.  (Got that? Reread. Repeat.)

And there is, of course, the amazing story of the connection between sisters Nixie Knox and Little Lola Lopp, from Minnesota, and our Tongginator and Squirt.

It was such a blessing to share all of this with others.

But I didn't stop there.  I also spoke about adoption.  I talked about how adoption isn't just an opportunity to see God at work, it's also an opportunity to see how humanity fails.  Repeatedly.  I talked about how society and yes, even the church, most often portrays adoption as a win-win-win situation, all hearts and rainbows and "we saved a child" mantras.  I talked about the hypocrisy of many churches working solely to "save the orphan" through adoption without any thought to eliminating the need for adoption by working to solve the societal problems that lead to adoption. And how wrong all of that is.

I quoted Carrie when I said that adoption is a "redemptive response to a tragedy."

I did not share my children's stories, as they are their stories to tell, but I did talk about how hard adoption is on adoptees.  The women in that room had never before thought about adoption except from the adoptive parent perspective.  I knew I could not speak to the adoptee experience, since I am not an adoptee, but I also knew I had to try to bring just a glimmer of that perspective to light.  I stumbled my way through an example, after one woman asked a question in a puzzled tone of voice.

It wasn't a perfect explanation, by any means, but it was the best I could come up with on the spot.  Basically I described a family situation where a mom dies in childbirth, and the child is raised by her single father.  A few years down the line, he falls in love and remarries a wonderful woman who also adores the child.  Everyone celebrates that the child now has a stepmother who loves her deeply, but they don't expect her to "get over" the fact that she lost her mother.  And that's a child who is still living with her biological father.  They understand that child's loss, and yet they negate the losses experienced by adoptees, losses so much deeper than the ones described in the above scenario.

The women at the shower had never before considered that.

Then again, neither had I until parenting a grieving Tongginator.

I told them that, while the Tongginator loves us, she hates being adopted.  This shocked the women - that the Tongginator felt that way, that I would even acknowledge it, that I wasn't angry about her feelings.  Several women asked very insightful questions.  With careful words, ensuring the Tongginator's privacy, I shared that many adoptees feel the soul-sting of abandonment very deeply.  That most adoptees hate how society tells them - over and over again - that they should feel grateful to have been adopted.  That most adoptees hate the intrusive questions that come along with being an adoptee, especially if they were adopted transracially.

I talked and talked and talked and talked.  My words weren't perfect, nor were they filled with answers, but I decided several years ago that adoption will never change unless people start to speak up.  So many dismiss the voices of adult adoptees and first mothers, it is up to us as adoptive parents to encourage society to listen to them, and to speak about all aspects of adoption when given the opportunity.  As Christians, it's our job not only to speak about God's hand in adoption, it is also our job to encourage compassion in others, and to point out how God prefers family preservation over adoption, whenever possible.

We were there until after 10 o'clock at night.

That's how much I talked.

It felt good to say it all.  It felt good to see them taking it all in, with generous spirits and open minds.  And it felt even better when several of the women asked how they could help... what did our family need right now?  What did we need in the future?

Tomorrow I'll share a few of the suggestions I thought to say, and a few things I'm kicking myself for forgetting to say.


Kristen said...

Tonguu Momma.. you are very brave indeed. The potential for education on these topics is huge and you made a great attempt at it. Our girls deserve this and society can get healthier from it and learn to accept the realities of loss in the adoption triad.

As the mom of a 7 year old from China, I totally get it when you say.. Tongginator doesn't like being adopted. My daughter doesn't like attention drawn to that fact either or the fact she is Chinese and "different" even though we are in a diverse school and she appreciates learning about China.

The other huge nut to crack is with the Christian right churches who as you say want to "rescue" adopted children. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to educate. I'm betting you rocked their worlds.
Rock On!

Jenny said...

Oh, I can't wait to read the suggestions that you thought to say and what you forgot to say. So, so wonderful!

Jennifer said...

I can honestly say that I NEVER thought about adoption this way until I stumbled onto your blog a couple of years ago. I wish more people who have been through it would talk about it like you do.

I will add my 2 cents though in response to Kristen's earlier comment... I read her tone as one of condescension towards the "Christian right" and, having been someone who thought of adopted children as needing to be "rescued" (until I found this blog that is), I don't feel they deserve our condescension. Instead, I think that, for the vast majority of them, if someone were to take a moment and explain adoption to them the way that TM does, they'd approach it differently, or at least with eyes open to the causes of adoption.

I am part of a very large denomination in the south, the one most people probably think of when they think of the Christian right, and just last night, I went to hear one of our summer mission teams speak about work our denomination is doing in Guatemala. They opened a malnutrition center and are always clear that it is NOT an orphanage. As a denomination, we are working to repair families and not just take them from parents who can't provide.

Of course Kristen, I could have completely misread your tone. If I did, I'm sorry.

Dana said...

Tongu Momma - I'm linking to this post from my blog today. www.balladoption.blogspot.com
It seems to me that adoptive parents have the biggest platform to speak to these issues and help educate people. It seems so easy for most people to write off adult adoptees or first moms as bitter. I know that's wrong, but I think it happens more often than not. So I think it is our responsibility to help people be open to hear their voices. Excellent post.

Tonggu Grammy said...

Let me just say that I am proud to be your momma. You are doing a good job educating people about adoption issues.

While I am in agreement that many Christian churches approach this issue with a "save the child" attitude, I honestly feel that they would be open to learning about the other side of adoption. It's just a matter of not being educated. I'm your mom and I needed you to open my eyes. And since then, I have shared with my church as we embarked on a journey to establish an orphan ministry. We actually chose Guatemala BECAUSE it is closed to international adoption now. We are currently serving children living in 2 orphanages, some of whom have parents who are unable to care for them due to financial reasons. Our goal is to provide food, medicine and an education. Our hope is to raise them out of poverty so that they can successfully live in their own communities and begin to serve others locally. We believe that Jesus directed us to serve the orphans and widows of the world. Sometimes that can be through adoption and sometimes it can be through support in the local community. As TM would say, "I'm just sayin'."

LucisMomma said...

"Then again, neither had I until parenting a grieving Tongginator.

I told them that, while the Tongginator loves us, she hates being adopted."

So true of our daughter, as well. So glad you have a good church family. :)

il panettiere... said...

I appreciated your example of a young child living with a step-parent and biological father after the death of her mother. I think that particular insight will affect many people....

prechrswife said...

Well-done! And so glad you have found a supportive new church.

Sharie said...

Thanks again for educating others...and sharing with all of us what you learn through that process:)

Tari said...

Kudos to you for sharing all that with those women! I also love that your daughter is already able to separate the 2 mind-spinning concepts of "I love my parents" and "but why did this have to happen to me?" I'm 41 and was domestically adopted as an infant, and am just beginning to work on those 2 ideas in concert. She's waaaaaay ahead of the game, thanks to you and your husband. How awesome.

Sarah said...

I greatly admire you and so many of your posts.. but this one hits the spot. Thank you for serving as a role model for my actions and words as an adoptive parent.

Ms. Pollywog said...

This is a great, educational post. Thanks for seeing it's importance and taking the time to write it.

I was initially in the China program, but life got really complicated and we went down a different path. We have adopted embryos. As I gear up for my Frozen Embryo Transfer (8/31), I wonder if my child(ren) will have these same losses to grieve, or is it different with embryo adoption, since I will be giving birth to them? These are fairly new waters I am navigating, but this really makes me stop and think. I might just have to post about this and link here as well. Thanks for the inspiration!

You now have a new follower.


lmgnyc said...

Fabulous. Amazing. I wish I could memorize this and repeat it verbatim to everyone who asks about adoption.

Good job TM. You rock.

Tisra said...


I always say that adoption is a perfect example of God taking "beauty from ashes". He can turn all things for His good!


Beyond Normal Limits said...

not only are you brave and informative and thoughtful and compassionate and a true parent, but I think you've got it right

Aunt LoLo said...

I just want you to know...your sphere of influence goes WAY beyond your new band of church friends. WAY beyond. Thank you, for that.