October 2008

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alex's life book

  • In early 2006, I began creating a life book for my daughter, Alex. Click here for links to articles describing my experience.
  • And for those of you who are more digitally inclined, in late 2006, I recreated key pages of Alex's lifebook for an article I wrote for AlphaMom, using Scrapblog.

    You can see the final digital result (and leave comments, if you'd like!) here.

what's been on my nikon lately

  • And you can view my favourites here.

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Comments

Nancy

Karen...I can only comment on what works in MY family. ShaoXi is almost 9, adopted from China at 13.5 months. She is still quite comfortable about me sharing her story. In fact, she is very upfront and open about it, and to date has not objected to any info being shared. It IS a fine line to walk, between the "specialness" of the adoption process vs. just being a "normal" every day kid, in a normal every day family. I keep my ears open for the first sign of her NOT wanting this shared...so far, it is all systems go. I will keep you updated, if things change! Hugs for Alex! She is so darned cute, I can't stand it!!!! What a treasure!

victoria

This is such an interesting post. Have you written elsewhere about why you chose to adopt? I would be really interested in reading that.

Tina

This is a great and interesting topic. It is a very grey area and I spend a lot of time thinking about these very same issues.

However, our family is very conspicuous - there's really no doubt that our children aren't biologically ours. We can't usually avoid the topic when approached by strangers ("Are you the nanny?" "Do you foster them?" "Are they yours?" "Where did they come from?") so ours is an even narrower, slacker tightrope. Then there are the few, precious people who assume they are my bio kids but that my husband must be really dark skinned. I usually tell folks "No, I'm the mommy" or "No, I don't foster them" or "Yes, they're mine" or "They're a gift from God" and then leave it at that. Other times I say "They're adopted and we are so blessed by them." I rarely divulge much more than that, keeping each of my kids' stories private.

I suppose I asked for this adopting transracially, but I would love to be less like a celebrity and more like an inconspicuous family every once in a while. I LOVE my children and I am, in many ways, kinda proud to be this walking adoption ad, showing folks in the greater world that families come in all shapes, sizes and colors. My biggest struggle is whether my children will have issues with being so obviously adopted as they grow.

Thanks, as always, for sharing so much with us!

Natalie

But that's motherhood, though, right? While she's really young, she will probably look to you for guidance on how to think about adoption, and you're bound to influence how she manages when she's older. So I'm sure doing what you think is right will feel right to her when she gets older. And if not, she'll tell you, and you can adjust your behaviour then. Don't you figure?

Mieke


This is a very interesting issue. Though we have bio babies, there is a plan to adopt from Ethiopia in the future, as we are lily-white, there will be no question that our child didn't come from my womb.

I have a ton of friends with adopted children and they each handle it differently. You give the same explanation about it being Alex's story to tell that some of them do, but I think I disagree, it is your whole family's story. You chose her. You and Marcus went through great lengths to find her, to start your family through adoption, so, to me, it is as much your story as it is hers. If Alex were 12 and the same weight scenario happened, if you hesitated to volunteer the info wouldn't she think there was something to be ashamed of? this isn't rhetorical, I am genuinely asking.

I have friends who would only adopt a white baby because they didn't want people to know the moment they walked into a room that their child was adopted (hello? Get thee to therapy!). I don't understand that way of thinking - how can a child not pick up on that attitude.

My sister was born with a HUGE, I mean MASSIVE BLOOD RED birthmark on 1/3 of her face (this thing had texture, it was 3D). It could have been a disaster and scarred her for life, but my parents handled it perfectly; they had no shame or embarrassment about it, they treated it like it was as significant as being born with brown hair. When they looked at her all they saw was their beautiful daughter, who did have a set of lungs on her (but that's a different story) so that's all that my sister felt. So when people asked her about it, and they did - A LOT, she would state matter a factly it was a birthmark (duh), like you were asking her why her eyes were blue. I may be naive, but I think that adoption can be viewed similarly, that it is an interesting fact, but signifies nothing. At least, as long as it signifies nothing to the parents. Kids pick up on EVERYTHING.

In our family, I think, and we won't know until we get there, we will handle adoption as totally normal, something to be discussed, celebrated, etc...we will tell our child their story as often as we tell our boys theirs. It will be different to be sure, but no less exciting to us.

Tricia

My husband and I have plans to adopt from China in the future, if all goes well. We will not be in the same situation as you, because that child will not look like us. But, the way I figure it is this...moms with biological children share details of pregnancy all the time (I had these cravings, I gained this much weight, so on and so forth), so why shouldn't you share stories of the time you were waiting for Alex? I think I understand your point of not wanting the fact of her adoption to be a "hidden secret" or something that makes her Different. But, I think if you treat it like what it is, a way to build your family, that she will be proud of herself and of her family. She will know that she was loved by everyone involved with her adoption, just like you want.

Your family is beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with the entire world!

MrsDoF

When I was young, I often wished I _had_ been adopted because I never felt like my personality fit in with the people around me. However, too many people know my mother and her 7 siblings to let me deny the genetics of my family tree.

There will come a time, maybe 12 years or so, when no matter what you say or do as a mother, your daughter will be embarassed.
Just tell the truth and let the listener sort it out.

Dianne

Karen,

I don't every remember my parents telling me that I was adopted, I just always knew and it was never a big deal. Conversely I had a friend whose parents didn't tell her she was adopted and she found out when we were in high school and she always felt like it was something to be ashamed of because they had kept it a secret from her. My parents explained it to me that I was a special and I was part of their family and God knew I was meant to be with them so he made sure we ended up together. If we ever adopt that's how I'll explain it to our child too. I think you're on the right track and I think Alex will appreciate your openness as she grows older.

Dianne

Susann

My favorite adopted idea? One of my best friends in college celebrated her birthday, but more importantly, celebrated "Gotcha!" day with her family. It was their day to celebrate the day she made her family whole. Always thought that was so special.

mamaloo

Enjoyed the post. Beautifully written followed up by an extra beauitful pic of Alex! I can see her teenage face peeking out.

sster

I think that voice tone and demeanor are important here, too. I think if you stay in yourself--don't tense up when you know someone is going to ask a question--and treat the issue the same way you treat it at home, you will communicate exactly what you want to. You won't of course share the same level of detail that you would at home, but it's the attitude that's important here, I think. Occupy the world you have chosen, and others will join you.

Twyla

I was adopted at 6 weeks and I don't remember ever being specifically told I was adopted, but just always knowing. So, I guess I just grew up with it being a part of normal family life/conversation (but why not? between myself, my brother and my 2 cousins, 3 of the 4 of us were adopted, so really, what is up with the odd biological one is what the question should be). I agree you don't have to tell everyone, yet I think if there is a question where it makes sense, go ahead. Alex will learn it is just a normal part of your family story.

Medically, I think you know the birthmother well enough to know if there were any very serious things you should be on the look out for. Personally, I love getting to the part on medical questionnaires where they want years of history on family members and I can quickly write Adopted - no medical history:)

all my love, and a big hug

Sylvie

I feel EXACTLY the same way about Gavin! I mean there are a lot of situations where I dont need to reveal that he is adopted, but I feel if I dont maybe that is being deceitful, like when I run into people that I haven't seen in a while and I tell about my new baby and they say Oh I didnt know you were pregnant. It's like I forget that people get pregnant to make their families! It's like I dont want people to find out later that he's adopted and think that I was trying to keep it a secret. But it is not everyone's business either. It is exactly as you described it, a tight rope.

Sylvie

Oh you know what else.... Well meaning family members say things like " He looks so much like the both of you, you dont even have to tell people he's adopted, noone would know". Then I have to answer and say, but it's not a secret, it's wonderful!

Simone

Such an interesting post Karen. And on a subject that has been on my mind A LOT lately. We adopted a beautiful baby girl domestically 15 months ago who as fate would have it, looks just like us. We were open to any and all races and still are as we once again walk the road of adoption in the hopes of adopting a baby brother or sister for Amelie. But now we wonder how it will be if we are placed with a lovely AA or biracial boy or girl and how our family will be perceived. Obviously my husband and I don't care, our children are our children! But outsiders will assume that Amelie is our bio child and her sibling (possibly) not. We are huge advocates for adoption since this is not a shameful thing but something that had brought us tremendous joy and happiness. And yet I worry that our second child will have to deal with some issues that Amelie will not. That said, I think if we approach this with good humour, patience and a realization that people will think and say what they want anyway, that we will be just fine regardless :-)

Amy

My children were both born to me biologically, but neither of them look like me. They look like my husband or other people in the family. For a while when my oldest son was a baby, my husband and I were seperated and I worried constantly that noone would ever know I was his mother and that my husband would remarry and everyone would think that the woman he married our son's mother. Well, then I got my head on straight and figured it out for myself, "I AM HIS MOTHER." Regardless of if he looks like me, was born to me biologically or adopted. What matters is how I feel about it. Plus, I find that the first thing all people do with children is try to figure out who they look like, which is something I myself do even though I try very hard not to! In the end, the child looks like his or her self. Right?

On another note, my aunt adopted both of her children and it was always a thing that was talked about freely in our family and with people outside the family as well. Her husband's biggest worry was that their oldest son would try to find his "real" parents and want to be with them, until the son himself said, "Dad, you are my real parents." Sometimes the kids "get it" better than the parents do.

Best of luck to you. Parenting is my life's greatest joy and challenge and I know that this has nothing to do with how my children came to me, but how I spend with them the time I have been given.

Jess

Delurking...

I'm not a mother, but the thing that occurred to me while I was reading your post was that the adoption didn't just happen to Alex, but it happened to you and Marcus and your whole family (and Alex's birthfamily too, of course). Does that make sense? As such, it's not as if, by disclosing Alex's adoption, you're telling people something about HER; you're telling them something about your family, and as such, you should tell people if you feel comfortable doing so, as I'm sure Alex will when she's old enough.

cheryl b.

This has nothing to do with anything (like most everything I say) but I've been wondering about the necklace Alex is always wearing? You don't have to answer, I was just wondering if it had any special meaning. Love your blog as always.

Maria

Our adoption story is very different. I did not adopt my daughter until she was an adult. She was a teen-ager when she first came into our family from the foster system and we fell so in love with her that she quickly became the beloved daughter we had always wanted. In looking back, I think maybe she adopted us just as much as we adopted her. Tell our story? You bet we do, every opportunity we have.

Julie

I thought this was a great and thoughtful entry, and loved the pic at the bottom.

It occurred to me (I think this is in line with some other comments you've gotten) that if you would be comfortable mentioning, 'Oh, well, I had a midwife' or 'I had a water birth' or 'I had a c-section," if it was relevant, you can just as matter-of-factly say 'Oh, Alex was adopted as an infant' when it's appropriate and natural to bring it up. That will, as someone said above, set the stage for it being treated as one of many normal ways for a child to come into a family, and give her some guidelines for treating it matter-of-factly when she's of an age to discuss it.

Basically, if you want to be an activist for adoption being among the normal ways to build a family, then treat it like it is, and you'll have done what's needed.

Easier said than done sometimes, I know. ;-)

Kim

Karen, as usual, your posts make me stop and think. I remember after our oldest son Andrew was born, I had to take him back to the hospital for blood work because he was jaundiced. As I'm toting his baby carrier around the hospital, a woman standing by me at the elevator asked how old the baby was. "One week," I said and her comment was "WOW, you look fantastic." I smiled, said thank you, blushed and started laughing. After a few moments, I told her I couldn't take credit for losing any baby weight because Andrew was adopted. I decided right then and there that I'd handle each situation as it arose and would not worry if I should or should not tell people.

We talk openly to Andrew and even baby John about their adoptions and will let them decide who to tell as they get older. It's who they are and I want them to be proud of their adoptions because we are proud parents of two beautiful boys.

No matter what "type" of parent you are, biological or adoptive, we all will face situations when others ask questions about our children that are hard to answer. All any of us can do is pray for a little patience, a little understanding and a lot of common sense when dealing with our kids and who they are!!!

Cricket

Our son is 7 months old. We get comments all the time that he looks like us. I just smile and say thank you. When he was younger I used to get comments about how good I looked for just having given birth. Depending on who made the comment I would explain the situation, others I just smiled and said thank you. I hated it when people said "you did it the easy way." The adoption process is not easy. As our little guy gets older I am sure that we will be more discrete letting the adoption info fly. We talk about adoption all the time in front of him, he may not understand now, but if we continue he will know from the beginning he is adopted. If he chooses to share that with people great, if not that is fine. Some kids have problems with being adopted and others don't. We have a closed adoption because bmom is a drug addict. I am sure that makes the dynamics a little different because our son will not have any contact with bmom until he is at least 18, if he chooses to. Adoption is one of the most incredible things that has ever happened to us. I am sure that I could not love a bio kid more than I love this little boy.

Kate

Hello, love your site. I was looking at Alternatives in Motion and wondered if you might say a little about the cost of doing an adoption through them. I would love to adopt someday and am looking at differenct agencies

brat

hey k--
you always do the sensible, thoughtful thing, so i don't worry about you. i have been enjoying reading these responses, though.

i'll share a couple of our stories, not because you need the advice but because i can relate to this situation.

i used to talk about dd's adoption story to whomever would listen. i stopped when i began to notice that people were so disrespectful of my dd's bmom, and felt free to ask intrusive questions i would never think to ask of them. one time dd was drooling and a woman asked if she was a "drug baby" and scrinched up her nose.

it's easy for me and dh: people never ask us whether she's ours. we chose birthparents with ethnicities close to ours because we didn't choose to be an adoption billboard. we just wanted a family. bio parents who adopt after they have given birth to carbon copies of themselves may not understand that concept, and that's OK.

when do we choose to share? as others mentioned, when it makes sense. coincidentally, the day before you posted this, i was sharing with someone that i'd bowed out of something to which i'd initially committed because we'd adopted, and she happily blurted out that she was an adoptive mom. she brought up the topic of when you "tell" and we had a great conversation.

you mentioned daycare. we have never mentioned dd's adoption to her daycare providers. my niece has a peanut allergy and none of us from either of the family do. if dd has unknown allergies, we figure we'll find that out like any other parents.

as you know, because i've told you the stories, we had a nanny for the first several months of dd's life, and were enormously chagrined when we discovered her actually treating dd differently than she would other kids because she is adopted. she even told me one time that the reason why dd is so affectionate and loves to cuddle is because she misses her mom. though i found that to be an odd statement, i thought she meant she misses me when i go to work.

nope.

made me cry.

we just wanted to drop off our daughter at her daycare without a bunch of politics, odd suggestions, and curiosity. we just wanted her to be one of the kids and us, just two more parents. but we'll mention it if it ever makes sense.

i talk to dd about being adopted, when it makes sense, and she's only 15 mos old. i'm not ashamed of how she became my dd--in fact, due to cultural reasons, my friends who've had c-sections seem more apprehensive to mention how their children came into the world than i am! i just don't need to broadcast it to feed other's interests or educate the world. adoption is on a need-to-know basis in this family.

that's just me--as usual, you'll do what makes sense, like any other mom.

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