Archive for May, 2008

A long time ago I never knew how adoption would become such a huge part of my life. When Squirt came into my life everything changed. I learned about how amazing she was, how complicated adoption was (is), and how to live with amazing joy was also to live with heartbreak.  I admit I didn’t know everything I should have about adopting and issues of corruption, privilege, and race. So, I can’t pass judgement on all the clueless parents who wait for paperwork and lament the time it takes to get them ‘their’ child, or the marginalization of birthmothers, or the ignorance about the importance of race, because the truth is that I was an idiot like that once upon a time. Hell, I’m still an idiot a lot of the time.

But the truth is I love my kid, I love her firstfamily, and her country of birth. The truth is also I can’t love away the racism, or the act of adoption itself. Love is not enough. I will try to fill her up knowing that I might or might not be able to. I’ve grown so much in the last three years of being her mom. I have listened to voices I used to ignore, or voices I was just not aware of. I have listened to voices that have broken my heart, and voices that have taught me more than I could ever imagine.

And one of those first voices was a beautiful soul named Julia. She never knew me. I don’t think I ever commented on her blog though I read it for years, but it was her voice that gently showed me that I could be a better parent. How I could be a better parent.  Julia was a Korean adult adoptee. But that’s not all she was to me, it certainly wasn’t that that defined her. I think she helped to make me a better parent. I’m thankful for that. Julia passed away this morning of Leukemia. And I’m so sad about it. We’ve lost a beautiful light with Julia’s passing. But I feel that her reach and her impact on those around her leaves a lot of light behind. 

Squirt walks in her light. And I know that we’re all better for the light Julia gave to all of us.

My thoughts are with those grieving her loss on a much more personal level. I know what it looks, feels, and smells like to watch someone you love die right in front of your eyes.  There is nothing anyone can say that changes any of it. And it takes your breath away.  And I believe that those who love her will be with her again. I have to believe that. Faith is hard now. Sometimes surrender is really our only liberation.

Godspeed Julia. May you always walk in the light.

Mara ~


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WTF???    Seriously.

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

I read a lot about the adoption industry, including many first mom blogs, adult adoptee blogs, transracial/transnational adoptee blogs, anti-adoption websites, etc etc. Man, does adoption reform ever need to happen, and WOW, some people have no clue. The more I learn, the more I realize that adoptive parents themselves often have no clue. But this comment made by Lori Tay has me all pissed off and I have seemingly lost my ability to put some coherent thoughts together.  I should probably keep my mouth shut, but like an idiot I just can’t restrain myself.

Here’s the comment:

Anti-adoption advocates hate infertile couples in general, seeing us as the problem. What they fail to realize is that many, many infertile couples have NO desire at all to adopt. For us, adoption would only be a VERY LAST RESORT.

That’s right, birthmothers – your child would be a last resort for us, whether you like that or not. Your child is not the great prize you may think he is. What most of us want most is our own biological child!

Thank God for advances in reproductive medicine. IVF success rates are improving all the time. I predict in the future there will be a lot fewer people adopting or fostering children, because they will be able to have their own child.

So, where do I start? First of all, I am all up in arms about how my daughter would feel if she read something like this. How dare she say my child is a last resort? Or that she is a replacement child? How dare she make some judgement on my child’s inherent worth.  I can’t imagine the depth of her unmitigated temerity to even use the word ‘birthmother’ with the disgust one uses on a person that they consider to be garbage under their feet. How dare she insult the person that gave my child life?

How dare that she feels so ENTITLED to a child that she mentions adoption like it’s something that she still has a RIGHT to be available to her (but you know, only as a last resort…).  Because, in her arrogance she still thinks she’d be the better parent. Even after she proves herself unworthy of even her ‘own’ biological child.  And how dare she suggests that people adopt only due to infertility (as a preferential adopter, people make this assumption about me all the time, and I hate it).  Or that my child is some consolation. And her commodification of adopted children as ‘prizes’ makes me what to tear out my hair. Hard. In big clumps.

I’m not sure if you picked up on my hostility, but I am feeling a little angry. And now that I’ve made my little tirade and vented my spleen, I’m starting to feel a little sad.  I don’t want to admit these people exist. It messes up my little adoption world. But, they do exist. Adult adoptees have been telling us for years that adoptive parents feel like this. If not out in the open, in the deep dark recesses of adoptee experience where they never felt good enough, never measured up.  Of course, no one listened to adoptees. It’s easy to dismiss people with labels like “angry”, “ungrateful”, “bitter”, or to sweep a story under the carpet by saying that one individual had a ‘bad experience’. Especially when they don’t want to hear it when they’re being sold a line of bullshit that portrays adoption as something that will ‘cure’ infertility.

Truth is, Lori can only speak for herself. She can’t speak for all infertile people, or for all adoptive parents. She certainly does not speak for me. And I would hate for people to think that everyone who adopts after infertility feels this way. But, I think she’s the sharp, pointy, mean tip of an unimaginably large and damaged iceberg. And that, my friends, is the most disturbing (though not surprising) thing of all.

Mara ~ I have a headache

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I don’t understand

why things like this have to happen. To say it’s a tragedy is a ridiculous statement of the obvious, but what else do we do? Thoughts? Prayers? All pretty meaningless really. I hope everyone can come out the other end of this with some peace. And I hugged my daughter when I heard, because in the face of such tragedy we all hold on a little tighter. And I can’t let my head go to what I would do if this happened to my family. We all pay a little price for having our hearts walk around outside of our bodies. As parents, I think we gladly pay as we hold on even tighter.

Can we lift others up in prayer? I hope so. Can faith get you through? I hope so. Can God be a source of strength for the Chapman family? I hope so. So, may God bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.. and give you peace.

The little girl sitting on her daddy’s lap is Maria. I can’t imagine what it must be like to lose your child. She was only 5…

“So I will dance with Cinderella, while she is here in my arms

Cause I know something the prince never knew.

Oh, I will dance with Cinderella,  I don’t want to miss even one song.

Because all too soon the clock will strike midnight, and she’ll be gone…….”

~ Cinderella, written by Steven Curtis Chapman

And there is a first mom somewhere in China who will probably never know any of this. I wonder if her body knows that a piece of it has died? The heart and body she created in her own is no longer here. I wish peace for her too.

It seems that once you’ve experienced the death of someone you love so deeply, so completely, so unconditionally, that the grief of others is a little more imagineable. And I can see my daughter’s face in Maria, and there but for the grace of God. Heartbreaking.

Mara ~ And I still don’t understand. At all.

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On being ‘lucky’

Jen asked me why I have such a negativem visceral response when people say my child is lucky. And I’m tired, so I pulled a post from my last blog to answer the question. Truthfully, no one has made the lucky comment for quite a while, and for that I am grateful, sometimes it was too much ya know?

“It’s not FAIR!”

You’re right baby, it’s not!

If someone tells me how lucky my daughter is one more time, well I might just have to scream or walk away muttering incoherently or, or something. Soon, she’ll be of the age where people will be telling her how lucky she is. It’s not the general kind of lucky that they are talking about either. It’s the ‘you poor, little, orphaned, thrown away, Chinese girl that was plucked from certain despair to some white household far away from your heathen country’ lucky.

That kind of lucky is oppressive. It implies to my daughter that she must continually feel gratitude to be a part of my family. It means she was saved. I don’t ever want my daughter to feel like I saved her. Ever. It means she can’t say anything about the fact that she has lost her birth family or her birth culture lest it be construed as ungratefulness. Or worse yet, that she is oversensitive or (gasp!)angry. And last time I checked, she’d lost her first mom, her foster mom, her country, her language, her culture. Could you please explain your concept of luck?

It also sets up this whole range of expected behaviours. She must be so thankful to just be alive, she must never voice a thought that differs from warm and fuzzy societal views of adoption, she must always be grateful enough. It’s a heavy load, and I bear a tremendous responsibility in giving her that load that she’ll carry.

So, I do my best to keep her connected to her ‘Chineseness’, knowing that I can’t provide an authentic cultural frame of reference and I can’t replace her birth parents or her birth country. I do my best to make sure that she never feels that her voice is marginalized or dismissed or disregarded. And mostly I love her, even though I know that that in itself is not enough.

And while I ponder huge questions about identity and self, I wipe her nose and change her diaper. I watch meltdowns and expressions of joy. I read her The Very Hungry Caterpillar 37 times, and teach her to sing Golddigger. I thank God that through some incredible circumstance she somehow became my daughter. You see, I’m the lucky one.

Mara – I’m not just lucky, I have ‘privilege’, ~sigh~

We are not commodities.
We are children that were torn away from our countries, our parents, and our culture.
We are not the newest fad.
We are women and men who forever have a hole that cannot be filled.
We have voices, and we use them to express our outrage, our bitterness, our anger, and also our joy,our love,and our lives.
To learn from us is to listen to what is, sometimes,underneath.
–Eun Mi, Adult Adoptee from Korea

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Foster care training totally rocked last night. Wow. I have been waiting for 8 long weeks to feel excited about a big step in my life, and last night it happened. It was a panel of amazing, brave, flawed, courageous, inspiring, touching and most importantly, real people. We heard from first parents who had lost one child to adoption and now are raising their next two children, two children currently in care, adoptive parents, foster families, and an adult adoptee. 

Most of the audience spent the better part of 2 hours crying. It was intense. And the mom that lost her first child to adoption…  she was a portrait in courage. What amazing bravery to open yourself up to a room full of strangers in a building of an agency that not only fought you for custody of your first born, but placed that child for adoption, and then to have your second child placed in care….  Wow. She was amazing. And she is a tiny glimpse into what people are capable of and what can be overcome when the system works the way it is supposed to, with proper supports, a strength based perspective and a ton of work on behalf of the family. She is amazing. I am honoured to have been able to hear her story.

And I was so happy to listen to an adult adoptee, as often I feel like their voices are seen as the least important in the adoption ‘triad’, where the focus is predominantly mis-placed on adoptive parents to the exclusion of anyone else.  She gave us all such a great perspective, and a little of her heartbreak in reunion/ and contact denial.  She talked about issues surrounding her adoption and encourages counselling as a way to deal with ramifications of being adopted. There will always be issues, yes there will.

The kids in care were great to listen to. No one should have to suffer that much. Things like that should never happen to children, they just shouldn’t. ~sigh ~

When I came home my head was alternately pounding and also whirling about 40 miles a minute and I could just not settle to sleep, which is a problem when one has to get up at 5am to be at a bakery. Oh well, it was worth it. And I learned SO MUCH. It will just take a while to process it all. It’s still all I can think about, and it was a great affirmation that we’re doing the right thing.

Mara ~ gonna make a difference, hmmmmmmmm

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The other mother

I don’t really like Mother’s Day. I think it’s fake and like Valentine’s Day is sort of marketed so Hallmark can make more money. Even before I became an adoptive mother, I was uneasy about it. Maybe that has something to do with the uneasy relationship I have with my own mom.  It always felt forced and I was always uneasy. I was not genuine in my demonstrations of love.

It’s also fake because the day was originally meant to be a day of peace. A Mother’s Day for Peace. That I can get embrace, that I can understand, that I can value. That is meaningful. Of course, now it’s about ridiculously priced roses and fancy brunches and platitudes. See what I mean? Fake!

And now Mother’s Day is even harder since Squirt came home. Her first mom is on the loss side of this whole equation. Is she being honoured? Generally, societally, no she’s not. She’s marginalized.  We honour her in our home though. They are rituals that are rather meaningless, but important too. I want Squirt to know that we love her first mom, and her foster mom. And I want her to know that even though I can never understand what it means to not spend Mother’s Day with the child born of my body, that I think of her still. Every day. With every milestone Squirt achieves, with every hurt I try to make better, with every new word she has, I think of her mom. The one that gave her life. The one that lost her. The one that aches.

I wish for peace for everyone, it’s what Mother’s Day was supposed to mean.

Mara ~ one of the moms to a ‘fantabulous’ Squirt


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Me: Little Bear is on. I like Little Bear.

Squirt: NO! I like Little Bear!

Me: We can both like Little Bear.

Squirt: Ummm. No, I don’t think that is possible.

Ah four year olds. Little egomaniacs!

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