Being Sheep

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."John 10:14-15

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"So Why Was He Given Up??"

I was asked today by an acquaintance why N ever became available for adoption. The person asked, "So could his parents not take care of him? Is that why they gave him up? Did he have any brothers or sisters? Is he healthy?"

I admit, I was a bit surprised at the personal nature of the questions. Of course, all through the process we were told by other adoptive parents to expect it, and I've had similar questions before---but it still took me by surprise. This person asked and was definitely expecting an answer!

I said basically that there are a lot of reasons children in Ethiopia become available for adoption, etc. and didn't give any personal details beyond what we're telling publicly: he was unable to get the care he needed, and his birth mom placed him in an orphanage.

Is there more to the story? Of course. Was it only a matter of money that made his birth mom relinquish him? No. Are we sharing much more than that? No.

Why not? He's only a baby now and can't understand what I'm telling others or what others are asking about him, but the day will come that he will start asking questions about his birth history. The day will come when he understands what the random stranger is asking, and he feels self-conscious, upset, etc. at listening to that conversation.

Additionally, imagine if everyone around you knew about your birth history before you did? Eventually N will be told everything we know about his history, but there are some details he won't be ready to hear until he's older. Those aren't the sort of details we want to be public information, ya know?

Bottom line: please don't be offended if an adoptive parent chooses not to answer the questions/s you're asking. There's a good reason for keeping some things private, and we could use your understanding in this. :)

An Adoption Experience

I've had a lot of questions lately about why we don't put N in the church nursery, or why we don't leave him with a baby-sitter, why we carry him and hold him a lot, etc. I'm never offended or upset at such questions, but it occurs to me that a lot of people don't understand what a child goes through in an international adoption. I've written this as best as I understand N's history, though some of the pre-adoption details have been left out and/or changed slightly so as to protect his privacy. Please take a moment to read.

In a typical parent/child relationship, a mother gives birth after carrying her child for 9 months. She then proceeds to take care of her infant's every need (of course with some help from Dad and maybe other relatives). :) When baby is hungry, Mom feeds him. When he's tired, Mom puts him to sleep. When his diaper is dirty, Mom changes him. He gets a little bigger and learns that when he smiles at Mom, she smiles back. When he bumps his head, she picks him up, hugs and kisses him. When he drops his pacifier, Mom gives it back. When he giggles, she giggles back. When he cries, she answers.

He's never far from his mom or dad. Even if Grandma is baby-sitting, he learns that Mom comes back. He eventually (of course, this takes longer for some than others!) learns that even if Mom doesn't feed him the minute he's hungry, she will feed him soon and he can wait a few minutes. He knows he is loved unconditionally, he's protected, he has a place.

Now imagine this same baby is born and taken care of by his mother. But she can't respond to all of his needs. She has to work all day to have the chance earning a meal, and there's no day care to bring him to. She wants to feed her baby, but can't. She wants to giggle with him, tickle him, change his diapers, but she's unable to. She eventually relinquishes him to an orphanage after realizing she can never care for him the way she wants to.

The baby's mom--that familiar face, the one who took care of his needs the best she could--is no longer there. And she doesn't come back. And he's left with several nannies who come in and out, and who speak a different language than the one he's been hearing his whole life thus far, and a whole lot of other babies. Some of them leave, others come. It's never the same.

When he's hungry, no one feeds him if it's not meal time. When he's tired, no one puts him to bed if it's not nap time. When he giggles there's no guarantee anyone hears. When he bumps his head, it may or may not be noticed. When his diaper is dirty, he sits in it until it's time to change all the other babies.

After a short time, he moves from this orphanage to another. Once again, he's left with several different nannies who come in and out, and a whole lot of other babies. He is loved. He is cared for. But it's not the same as having a mother who takes care of his every need, who responds to his cries, who cares for him as an individual rather than a group of babies who all need attention.

Eventually two people with different skin, different smells, different voices and language, come. He is handed to them, they take him home and he never goes back. He doesn't see the nannies again, the ones who loved and cared for him the best they could.

He travels to a new country with these new people, a country with different sounds, sights, smells, voices. A home with a mom and a dad who love him unconditionally, who respond to his every need the best that they can. Brothers who love him. More toys than he can play with. But is this the last stop? Will the day come that they leave him, too? When will he go to his next new home? What will it be like? Will he see these people again?

It seems like a happy place. Everybody's nice to him, get gets enough food to eat, gets rest when he needs it, has people to giggle with, and he always gets kissed when he bumps his head. But is it too good to last? He doesn't know, but he'd like to believe he'll be there forever.

Is he too young to truly be affected by his past? Every study says absolutely not.