My Article was Published! Here’s the Link

I have been reading this online publication for some time now, and I love it. Today, they published an essay that I wrote from my heart, about the day that we met our daughter. Thank you, Motherly, for sharing this piece of our journey.

https://www.mother.ly/love/the-minute-we-got-that-call-i-knew-you-were-our-daughter

7 Ways to Honor Your Adopted Child’s Transracial Identity

As I look back so fondly on our adoption experience, I want to share some lessons that have come out of our multicultural family, created through transracial adoption.

As I learn more, I will do more. We work hard every day to be the best and most supportive parents that we can be.  As a mother, a middle-Eastern woman, an activist, and a Citizen of the World, I have a base knowledge and first-hand experience of the issues surrounding racism but adopting our daughter was a new experience for both me and my wife.

We approached our decision to adopt a Black child easily because we believe, like many people, that “love is love”, “all you need is love” and that “love has no color”.  Love is undeniably important, but it is not enough.  In the case of our transracial adoption, it quickly became apparent that these sentiments are naïve, and lined with a cozy layer of privilege.

We need much more than love to be the best parents that we can be to any person. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about a resourceful awareness, the willingness to foster the growth of the child as an empowered individual, and the ability to use our own experiences to make life the best it can be for the future of our adopted children.

We must push our own boundaries, go outside our comfort zones, and help our children build their own racial identities, with all of the complexities that come with that, from day one. That is how we honor them.

In this article, using my own family as an example,  I will highlight 7 ways in which you can honor the identity of your adopted child, our daughter, Ella, in my case. As I do not intend to lump all people of color into the experience, I will speak only from the perspective of our cultures/ethnicities.

Lola Shahdadi

1. Learn the Facts.

As a multicultural family who adopted through the foster care system, we received little training from our agency regarding transracial adoption.  We were given book suggestions about the subject, but the lack of emphasis left us ignorant to what it all meant for our child. Focused insight is necessary and crucial to prepare families appropriately to raise a child who is not of the same ethnicity and/or culture as them, or who is a person of color that is not the same as the rest of the family.  As a result, I had to learn ways to honor this need for my child and our family.

Our children are adopted into our families, and that is often not their choice.  Providing a safe space for children to find their own identities (in my daughter’s case, as a Black woman) would be egregious to ignore.

We read books about adoption, tell stories of the day we brought her home, and talk about how special her Adoption Day was.  Keeping her birth parents in her story is crucial.  They are where she came from.  They gave her life!  This will not ever be ignored.  This is part of honoring who she is.

2. Understand the issues surrounding our child’s ethnicity.

I must be direct when I say that when adopting transracially, it is crucial to be educated about the issues of ethnicity (perhaps one about which you know a little beforehand), and an understanding of ethnic-racial challenges both now and potentially, in the future.  Adoptive parents need to make the extra effort to allow their adopted child an opportunity to experience people who can be mirrors for them, and where they can feel a true sense of self and community.

In order to do so, learn the correct language/terminology (racism, cultural appropriation, transracial, for example), and use it, openly, as a mirror for others.  Depending on where you live, this can be a real challenge.

Adoptive parents have fears that the child will identify so much with people who are the same ethnicity as them that they will leave their adoptive family.  When our children grow up knowing that they can trust us to put their needs first, that will not happen.  This is the best way to offer that knowledge.

Lola Shahdadi

3. Make community connections.

Give them racial mirrors. Children need to see themselves in others. This includes people who are the same color as them. I will go anywhere and do anything if it is in the best interest of my child. I attend a radically inclusive church. It was started by a gay man, is attended by same-sex, adoptive, and biological families, transgender people, people of color and those with diverse backgrounds. They celebrate diversity at every service.

Since I am a stay-at-home-working-mom, and my daughter does not attend daycare or preschool yet, my wife and I have joined programs that provide child development and enrichment classes across our city. This has given us the opportunity to meet many different families and experience diversity in safe settings.

I have joined parent groups that enrich our experiences. For example, we participated in Black History Month events at our LGBT Center this year.

Now that our daughter is a mobile and aware toddler, I watch her notice when she sees mirrors of herself.  I watch her love it.  If you don’t have these kinds of activities in your local community, drive the distance.

I cannot emphasize this enough!  Join in-person and online support groups.  There are many amazing groups out there, and many more families like yours than you might realize.  I am a member of some incredible online transracial adoption groups.  TAP 101 and Transracial Adoption Perspectives are two of the best that I’ve found on Facebook.  If there is a shortage of the type of support group that you need, start one!  You can be a change-maker.

As with any online engagement, consider the history/politics/conflicts of these groups by having dialogues with the admins and founders.  If they are open, honest and willing to engage, you’ve found your place.

Gaining the education and tools you need can be the enrichment your child needs to face the challenges that come with being a transracially adopted person.  We have the power to empower. Read. Research. Do.

5. Provide the opportunity for open conversation about race, culture, racism, and community.

For our very verbal 2-year-old, conversations are simple but meaningful.  We talk about the different types of families that we see (two daddies, two mommies, a mommy and a daddy, siblings, one very strong mommy or daddy).  We read books about the colors of us.  We talk about different things that other cultures value and care about, and we ask her lots of questions.  It’s amazing how much she answers back with her own thoughts!  When she notices someone that is also Black, she feels comfortable sharing this, and we encourage it.

Our hope is that discussing adoption and ethnicity, and all that comes with it, is so natural for her that she won’t remember some big talk about these topics.

Get books with characters that look like your child.  We have some wonderful books that provide mirrors for Ella, and they help encourage her to express thoughts and feelings in a way that we cannot.  She loves to pick out which hair looks like hers.  She’s starting to pick out people who have the same skin color as herself.  I knew it was time to start styling her hair with twists and pigtails because of the conversations during story time.

Share other adoptee stories.  There are many online and written opportunities in the form of blogs, memoirs, online spaces, and transracial perspective groups.  There are spaces online to begin and advance knowledge.

6. Every family is unique. Have your own traditions.

Along with engaging in our own local community, we travel, learn about the world, and are developing our own family traditions.  When we travel, we look for experiences which are unique to the culture of where we are visiting.  The experiences have been rich and plentiful for all three of us.  It has special to see the world through the eyes of a child.

We live in a major metropolitan area with a multitude of opportunities.  We have the privilege of living in a diverse neighborhood, playing with children of color, have multicultural experiences, and will send her to a diverse school, when the time comes.

We also honor our family unit.  We are unique in our own ways, and that is something in which my girl takes pride and joy.  We have traditions around the family table, our own backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. We take pride in these traditions and our toddler already acknowledges how much that means to her.

7. Discuss Challenges.

Use examples from their own experiences, those of the people of color in your world, as well as those out in the world at large, and throughout history.  As I hear more and more about the racism and civil injustices of the Black community in our country, I realize just how important this is.  We have books about the challenges and successes in the Black community, from slaves to civil rights activists to lawyers, doctors, scientists, and artists, and we have already begun reading them.

I anticipate many more lessons as our daughter grows up.  Steps toward knowledge and empowerment allow us the opportunity to minimize the challenges, or at least allow her to feel heard and supported as she faces and embraces them.  We want our daughter to know about herself as a Black woman, where she came from, and to make her own decisions about where to go with it all.  I hope that she becomes an empowered woman, with a strong sense of Self.

This article was first published in theParentVoice.Com, an online magazine for multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural families on (date). It is republished here with permission.

How to Choose Your Word of the Year

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Happy New Year!  As I end the first day of 2018, I want to share a process that has a very special place in my life.  It’s a consciousness-building exercise that I have found eliminates the sense of failure when my “resolve” leaves me.  Instead of the stress of a New Year Resolution, I choose a word to guide my year.  I have had so many successful experiences as a result that I just had to share.

What is a Word of the Year?

Seven years ago, my dear friend told me that she chooses a word to guide her year instead of a resolution, and I decided to join her.  I have chosen ‘Create’, ‘Grow’, ‘Learn’, ‘Enjoy, ‘Practice’ and ‘Connect’.

The Process

  • The word I choose needs to apply to all areas of my life.  I want it to work for my  inner self, my family, my job, relationships and present and future goals.
  • I look at my life as it is at present.  What do I really want?  What has worked?  What needs work?  I take an honest look at everything and everyone around me and see where my role in my own life is a success and where it needs work.
  • I focus on the things that I want, and the goals I have, using the Law of Attraction.  By placing a word in front of me, I have been able to manifest my dream life.. I Created art, a home, a family.  I Learned how to knit, make art in new ways, lessons about myself, how to cook Paleo food.  I Enjoyed my healing processes as I faced health challenges, seeing the world through the eyes of my child, and becoming a blogger and writer.
  • I imagine what I want my life to look like, without reservation.  Dreaming our ultimate dreams has paid off!  I look at the money I want to make, the ways I want to go about it, the steps I need to make it happen, and who I want to become.

My word for 2018 is ‘Nourish’.  I will

  • Nourish my family.
  • Nourish my health.
  • Nourish my creativity.
  • Nourish my wanderlust.
  • Nourish my daughter’s sense of wonder. 
  • Nourish my marriage.
  • Nourish my friendships.
  • Nourish my emotional body.
  • Nourish my spiritual journey.
  • Nourish the environment.
  • Nourish my blog.

What is your word?  Leave me a comment and tell me why you chose that word.

Happy Holidays! 5 Ways to Make the Holidays as Awesome as Thanksgiving.

Merry Christmahanuwanza!  As pumpkin spice is not-so-subtly shoved aside for peppermint everything, I wanted to be sure to gift you with a holiday post.  Our family celebrates Christmas, and honors all other holidays, and I have to tell you that as hard as I try, I hate Christmas.

There.  I said it.

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I got this and the idea of our elf toilet papering the tree from Pinterest. Such fun!

I love aspects of  it; decorating the tree, and now that Ella is 2, stuff like Elf on the Shelf is a hilarious challenge and tons of fun.  My wife & I make an epic amount of Christmas cookies to take to all of our neighbors.  That part is awesome.

But the rest of it – the “hustle and bustle” (aka the shit storm of chaos) is for the birds! It’s stressful, expensive, unnecessarily complicated and it makes me miss the simplicity of Thanksgiving.  I wish we could combine the two seasons;  Just a turkey, family, friends, a tree, an elf and some alcohol.  So delicious and simple. 

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There are awesome ways to simplify, but they require discipline..

  1. You can give handmade gifts, like photo ornaments — so let’s hope everyone you give a gift to wants a photo of your child on their tree or in their home at all.
  2. Bake cookies and give those as gifts — as long as you aren’t a mediocre baker that will be amazing amidst the 300 lbs of junk food already trickling into to every home in the name of festivities.
  3. Call your family and tell them  that you aren’t giving gifts this year — and find that one relative who starts a rumor that you’re having money problems (there’s always one).
  4. Make it about the kids — I have nothing snarky to say about this.  I love this idea best of all.
  5. Keep it light and fun! — Seriously.  As soon as we took this approach, the holiday became about our little family, friends, food and fun, and I stopped being stressed.  We spend time with the people we love and eat and drink to our hearts content.. just like Thanksgiving.

    View More: http://paolaspagnolettiphotography.pass.us/witmer2017
    From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!

Parenting Through Grief: What I’ve Learned

Lots of things change when we become parents.  Last year, my uncle died only 8 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, leaving his young wife, 2 small children and extended family and friends devastated.  In April, I had spine surgery, leaving me unable to bend, twist or lift (my daughter or almost anything else) for 6 weeks.  Recovery to the point where I felt normal again was a long 3 months.  Recently, I ended a 27-year friendship that had become toxic.  It has been quite a year.  How I handle these things now versus how I would have before becoming a parent is vastly different.

As the 1-year anniversary of my beloved uncle’s death approached last week, I felt grief in its current form take over me like a wave of sadness that was only relieved by a hike to the place where his ashes were spread.

  • As a parent, I can say that having my girl’s sweet face to greet me each morning has been a game-changer in how I process just about everything, including such deep loss.  On days when I would just cancel my day and go back to bed, I’m up, engaged and engaging.  While I am lifted up out of my own sadness by the busy life of a 2-year-old, I’ve learned that this cannot change the actual processing that needs to take place in my grieving
  • Let Nothing Stop You From Taking Care of Yourself

Having a supportive partner, I’ve been able to talk openly, when I could verbally express myself, about the impact that my feelings of loss have had on me.  Recently, I also decided to pursue grief counseling.  It is here that I learned the lesson to let nothing get in the way of taking care of yourself.  Find things that are just for you – a hobby that brings you calming enjoyment, exercise, meditate, try acupressure, get back to listening to your favorite music.  Having set times to write each day or each week has been part of my healing process.  Whether it is posting a new blog post or free writing, I get into a groove and it is my relief.

  • Don’t Hide Your Grief From Your Kids

My daughter is very verbal, especially when she wants to express her feelings.  This comes from our willingness to share our own feelings, talk about them and get through the feelings.  Being honest with our kids is modeling how to be healthy about their own stuff.  I can feel sad openly, and then when I’m okay, I can feel okay openly.  I want my daughter to know that she can do the same.  I do this in the simplest terms like “Mommy feels sad because she misses (someone).” And then, “Mommy feels better because this photo of him makes me feel happy.”

  • Slow and Steady

Trying to hide grief causes it to show up in less constructive ways.  If I’m in a fog over it and not processing it constructively, I become distracted, irritable or tired.  When I’m in it, it has to be a conscious decision to pull myself out, but I do it because it makes for a better day, every time.  I’ve learned that while it’s important to feel it, maintaining control of how it’s doled out is also crucial.

Someone who experienced the death of their child once told me that grief is a like an ocean that comes in waves, and ebbs and flows as it needs to, forever.  Indeed, it does.

National Adoption Month: “I Lush You Too, Mommy”

Happy National Adoption Month!

As I move into our daughter’s second year of life, I have so much to be thankful for!  Ella is small, but mighty.  She tells us about a lot of her feelings these days, and I am so grateful for her own self-awareness. She brings us never-ending joy, and she treasures us.  She tells us that “I feel happy” and “Mommy, Momma, Ella, happy family!” just about every day.   This allows me the opportunity to foster her expression, awareness and articulation even more.

I think about the weight of her adoption on a daily basis.  I write letters to her birth mother in my mind.  Sometimes I write them in real life too.  As I participate in groups like TAP 101 and  Transracial Adoption Perspectives on Facebook, learning the perspectives and experiences of adoptees, I know that my responsibility to honor my daughter’s ethnic identity, her identity as an adopted person, and as a Black female, is crucial.

My experience is just 2 years old, and I know it will continue to grow and change based on the needs of my child.  I know that my understanding will evolve.  Once I understood that being a better parent meant learning, growing, educating myself and teaching her how to embrace her own identity, the results were enormously rewarding.  As a toddler, she embraces her dolls, books, places we go, things we do and her friends who provide mirrors for her.  She understands that her family is made up of three different skin shades and one heart, and she kisses my hand every time we talk about it.

On Monday, November 6, the Parent Voice, an online magazine for multiracial families and their multicultural lives, published an article that I’ve written about this topic. Please be sure to go and read it and the many other stories, interviews and perspectives from other parents from around the world.  My article is based on my family’s experience, and the perspectives and lessons that I’ve received from other adoptees who were adopted transracially.

“Not flesh of my flesh,

Nor bone of my bone, but miraculously my own.

Never forget for a minute;

You didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”

~Fleur Helinger

As I watch this person grow, from my 5 pound, 1 ounce baby to a toddler with her own thoughts, feelings, ideas and a very clear point of view, I ache with the depth of love that I have for her.

I eat up each moment because I know it is never to return, except in my memory. I relish in the delicious moments of tender hugs and requests to “hold-ju, Mommy”, and the chance to be by her side as she learns to navigate this world that is now hers.

This gift of motherhood is a privilege that is not lost on me. Her kindness and love of others, her ability to be a good friend already, her sense of adventure… My life is forever changed because she is my daughter & I am her mother.IMG_6492

Recently, when I tell her I love her, she responds with a big hug or by pressing her sweet little cheek to mine saying, “I lush you too, Mommy.”  That is everything.

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*updated on Nov 22, 2017*

Raising A Baby Activist: The Series – A Razzle Dazzle Mommy Announcement

Google defines an activist as:
ac·tiv·ist
ˈaktivəst/
noun
  1. a person who campaigns to bring about political or social change.
  2. “police arrested three activists”
  3. synonyms: militantzealotprotesterMore

    adjective

  1. campaigning to bring about political or social change.
    I have always considered myself an activist.  I’ve joined hands (Remember Hands Across America in the 80s?), walked out for peace, marched for rights and against injustices.
    Our Baby Activist
    AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2015 – 2 months old
    I’ve made signs, felt deeply, argued passionately, spoken up loudly and held true to those things that I believe in.  I will stand up against injustice, when I’m aware of it, and I’ve been called “passionate”. Haha! You could say that..

    When we became parents to a daughter, I knew that I had to be an example to her.  When Trump became president last year, I lost my mind with fear and panic because the fact that I have a daughter turned into the conscious – and necessary – realization that I have a Black daughter, and Don John gave racists and bigots everywhere permission to come out of the holes from whence they were hidden.

     

    And they did.  They danced in the streets, celebrating the permission to openly hate people of color, the LGBTQA community, women and anyone else they damn well please.  And they have not stopped since.  The KKK received a reboot after being shoved into the dark corners of society, left to hate under the guise of policemen and bar drinkers.  An over simplifiction?  Perhaps, but it’s not untrue.

    1485069766031Then, they killed Heather Heyer, and he publicly excused them.  As I watched her mother talk to the world, I ached for her.  It was my daughter’s second birthday. I also stood with her in solidarity to never let her daughter’s flame go out.  She did not die in vain.

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    Photo by Lola Shahdadi

    As Lynne & I have paid close attention to this year of madness, we have vowed to raise our daughter to be an activist.  I now delve into the topics at hand, and those which have long concerned me, along with issues new to my life.  We will go beyond wearing pussy hats and making signs.  Our daughter will know what an actual activist looks like, acts like and thinks like because she lives it.

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    In some of my future posts, I will have the series “Raising a Baby Activist”.  I have a lineup of activists who are so excited to share their stories of strength and change-making.  I am so excited that I could not wait and had to share this news!
    Stay tuned because it is going to be AWESOME.

The Girl With The Bulky Uterus: My Journey Through Infertility

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It has taken me almost 3 months to write this post.

It was going to be the second post on my blog… The beginning of the journey that brought me here.  But as I sat down to write, I found myself avoiding the feelings of those years, feeling overwhelmed, amending the old feelings with how I feel today, which is very different from how I felt then. Hindsight is 20/20, and I am so thankful.  The physical and emotional pain I experienced have been replaced with joy and gratitude for the life I have now, but at the time, I felt very alone in my struggle.

So I am writing this in hopes that other women know that there are people who can relate.  That you know that you are not alone.

Infertility is an intimate struggle that many women experience, but the resources available for support are not easy to find.  To a degree, it’s still a taboo topic, attached to shame, grief, feeling like ‘less of a woman’ and so much more.  When I share my story with women who have experienced infertility in its various forms, I see a light in their eyes and hear hope in their voices that someone else understands.  I understand.

By definition, infertile women have bodies that are inadequate for making babies.  Conversations with fertile women about body changes from pregnancy, or the breastfeeding journey or whatever physical aspect becoming a biological mother may involve can feel incredibly exclusive.  Infertility affects our psyche and all aspects of our relationships; friends may not understand, sex drive is impacted, & the seemingly dashed dream of being a mother can be heart and soul-crushing.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother.  It was a desire so deep, I could feel the love long before I was ready to embark on the journey of motherhood.

So when my struggle with infertility happened in my mid-30s, it hit me like an avalanche. I’m a pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow kind of girl and a believer in my own dreams, and when the dream of becoming a mother looked like it wasn’t going to happen for my wife and me, I can tell you that it felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath for a very long time.  Heck, I forgot to breathe on a regular basis.

As I look back on how it unfolded, I do have to admit that there were always signs of trouble ahead.

I began cramping before I even had my period!  Once, when I was 10, I doubled over in pain, my parents took me to the emergency room because they thought that I had appendicitis.  Nope.  I had cramps, though my period was a year away.  The signs were there. By my late 20s, I was seeing the OBGYN regularly to try to manage the pain and heavy bleeding that came with my monthly visitor.  I had tests, ultrasounds, CAT Scans, biopsies, cauterizations… I tried several different types of birth control & followed every instruction I was given by the medical professionals while this happened for apparently no reason other than my tough luck. I even left my post in the Fitness Protection Program and took up running because I was told that exercise was the best thing for reproductive health.  It did not help.  I wasn’t getting better and I didn’t know what was wrong.  I was beyond frustrated!

By the time I was in my 30s, with no diagnosis, I was distraught. The only solution most doctors could come up with was birth control pills, which I was avidly against because of  evidence that has shown that the change in hormone levels can contribute to breast cancer, which was prevalent among my maternal female relatives.

I was  caught up in the algorithm of our terrible United Sates HMO medical insurance business.  I never had the same doctor twice, my issues were not properly assessed and test results were not explained in full.  I finally met a doctor who heard my frustration, and I got a diagnosis, along with options and a drawing of what was happening to my body.  She told me that my diagnosis had been discovered a year earlier.  No one had bothered to tell me that.

I had a condition called Adenomyosis.  IT HAD A NAME!!! HALLELUJAH!

Adenomyosis is a condition in which the inner lining of the uterus (the endometrium) breaks through the muscle wall of the uterus (the myometrium).  Adenomyosis can cause menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pressure, and bloating before menstrual periods and can result in heavy periods. [3, 2017 WebMD ]

Now that I knew what it was called, I needed to understand what it all meant. This process was a nightmare. I was bleeding out, in constant pain, and taking and changing medications like it was going out of style.  I was hurting, physically and emotionally, and it felt like both were beyond repair.

I no longer trusted doctors because most doctors that I dealt with didn’t even know what my condition was. I used my own research to explain it to them.  The head of the OBGYN department in my insurance network told me to “either take birth control or have a radical hysterectomy.”  I was 31.  That would have put me into menopause.  Another doctor wrote in my chart that I had fibroids because he didn’t know what adenomyosis was. It was “just easier to put that down”.  In the end, I had those too… But not yet.

Even though we hoped to get pregnant, my wife and I had also always talked about adoption as an option for us.  Now the decision was made.  We began to take classes and filled out the large amount of necessary paperwork to adopt through the foster care system.  But the classes told of the pitfalls of the system and we got scared.  We learned of risks like losing a child that we loved because the system is set up for biological parent/child reunification.  We could have a child in our home for years and then they may be taken from us.  We wanted a child to come to us and never leave.  It felt too heart-breaking for us.

We decided to try artificial insemination.  Since I was the younger, healthier spouse (we thought), we decided that I would be the one to get pregnant.  It cost hundreds of dollars just to meet with the fertility doctor, and the first vaginal ultrasound revealed that my uterus had enlarged and was pushing my left fallopian tube closed.  I went to another specialist who tried to unblock it, but the process was unsuccessful.  However, I was told that I could still get pregnant in the right tube.

A few thousand dollars into the process, I got my period and it didn’t stop.  After 9 months, I had symptoms that took me to the ER to reveal that I was bleeding to the point that my hemoglobin (iron) levels were dangerously low and I needed a blood transfusion.  A hysterectomy (allowing me to keep my ovaries) was now vital to end the suffering.  At the time of surgery, my period had been going on for ten and a half months.  I woke up pain-free, and relieved beyond measure.  I was 37.

We went back to the foster-to-adopt process shortly after, with a better attitude and some extra support, and our daughter came home to us a year after my surgery.  She’s my wish-come-true.  I am honored to have come to be her mother through adoption.  I do not feel deprived.  It feels like she is of my body, even though another totally amazing woman carried her.

What I would say if you’re struggling with fertility issues is this:  Look at all your options.  Be your strongest advocate.  Make the medical practitioners that you encounter look you in the eyes, tell you all possible options and make them listen to you.  This is your body, your future, your life. But most of all, don’t lose hope that you can be the parent you want to become.

Though there are people who believe you need to carry, birth and breastfeed a child to be a complete parent, that is a ridiculous notion.  It simply isn’t true.  There are lots of ways to become a parent.  When my daughter calls out “Mommy!”, she’s talking to me.  See?  Pot of gold.  Biggest and best ever.

What Not to Say to Adoptive Families: Sensitivity 101

We are 2 moms.  My wife is white, I am of Middle Eastern descent and our daughter, who we adopted, is Black.  As a result, the 3 of us make a very diverse family, and we get a lot of questions.  We expect this.

For us, Love is Love, but – as we have seen of our country in this Trump America – most of the rest of this country sees it differently.  As we move through the world, complete strangers, friends and family often make comments or ask questions that make us uncomfortable, at best.

I am writing this in hopes that people can better understand how we feel, and that more sensitivity will be considered when addressing adoptive families with questions or comments.  It is the responsibility of we, Citizens of the World, not to be ignorant.  I hope that this helps enlighten & inform people.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t mind talking about our family.  We love that, actually.  But people ask really personal questions that wouldn’t otherwise be asked.  My advice to people is this:  if you want to ask questions, stick to the basics.  How old is she?  How are you enjoying motherhood?  What are her favorite foods?  Has she hit the “terrible twos” yet?  The rest is, frankly, none of your business, unless we choose to share it with you.

Here are some things that you should not ask an adoptive family:

How long have you had her?

This post was inspired by a recent experience while our family was on vacation, when a stranger asked this very question.

We were at an aerial tramway shuttle stop, waiting to go on an 8500 ft. trek up a mountain in Palm Springs, California.  We were at the front of a group of about 30 people.  A woman, man & young teenager cut the line, and the woman kept staring at us so I smiled at her.  In her loudest possible speaking voice, she said, “How long have you had her?”  The crowd went silent, and all eyes turned our way.  I could almost hear the air go out of L, so I answered, “Since birth.” She then said, “Since birth?! Oh, I thought that she was from another country.” I shut that shit down with silence and a blank stare right there.

Do not ask families this.  And do not make brazen assumptions about the family dynamic. Especially when it is the very first time speaking to them!  A biologically-linked family would not be asked by a stranger how long they had sex before they conceived.  Just take the knowledge that we are a different sort of family & move on.  You have no idea the potential ramifications of this sort of “interviewing” on a person’s (let along a child’s) psyche, so please just don’t.

Is she yours? ….She is?!?

When Ella was 10 months old, I was forced to detour through a department store to use their stroller-accessible elevator and that was a conversation that I got stuck having with an employee who was in the elevator with us.

It is 2017.  If people have kids with them, assume that they belong together, and leave it at that.  If they tell you that they are the parent, they probably are.

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My Child

Are you worried that she will want to find her real mother? 

No. And we are her real mothers.

We have celebrated the fact that Ella was adopted from the beginning.  It was the most important day of our lives.

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Adoption Day!

Ella won’t have to look for her birth parents, if she decides to try to connect, because we have contact with her birth parents on a regular basis, so that will always be an option for her.  That contact with her birth parents has given us an avenue to learn more about them, and has given them the knowledge that Ella is part of a family who love & adore her.  We have the chance to tell them that the life that they wished for her is the one that she has.  No worries at all here.

The decision to learn more/visit with/have a relationship with her birth parents  is Ella’s choice, and a family matter.  Consider the fact that you have little to no information about the situation before you jump to the deep stuff.

Are you worried about the fact that she doesn’t have a male role model in her life?

No.  Why assume that she doesn’t have wonderful male role models in her life?  She has male relatives and we have close male friends.  We are a 2-mom family, but we don’t live on an all-female compound on an island.  The world will provide her many opportunities for balance and the chance to meet male-identifying folks.

Didn’t you want to have your own children?

I do have my own child.  I didn’t give birth to her, but that doesn’t make her any less ours.  Do people ask you why you didn’t adopt?  Adoption is a legal, permanent process, which ends with court papers which legally bind us as parents to our child.

Again, what path people travel to love a child who happens to be adopted is a personal matter.  If Ella looked like me, nobody would ask this.  If they do not offer the story, perhaps it would be more constructive to ask what the adoption process was like for a particular family, if you really want to know.

God bless you for what you’ve done. You saved a life.

Thank you, but why?  We wanted a baby, so we adopted.

The gift was to us, not the other way around.  Our child is not a charity case.  She was a newborn in perfect health.  Many families want this very situation.  I wanted nothing more than tot be a mother.  I feel like the luckiest person on the planet for this gift of my daughter.  And, please, don’t forget that.

How much did you pay for her?

Um… here’s a nice cold can of None of Your Business.  Drink it.

I’m sorry, but we did not purchase a car or a house.  We adopted a child.  The fees for adoption depend on many things.  Unless you are planning to adopt, you do not need to know this information.  If you really need to know, open with the reason you’re asking and then we can talk.

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How could they have given her up?

This hurts my heart to hear.  It comes from a place of judgement, and it isn’t okay.  First, Ella was lovingly relinquished at the hospital, at birth, and we brought her home from there.  I don’t know why the decision was made, but I get the feeling from my interaction with her birth parents that it had everything to do with what was best for Ella.  It is, in reality, the greatest act of Pure Love imaginable.

Children are placed for adoption for more reasons that anyone can possibly comprehend.  In many situations, parental rights are revoked by the courts because parents have failed to care for the child at the most basic level.  In the case of a voluntary relinquishment, it probably boils down the fact that birth parents don’t feel that they can provide that basic care, plus, adequately..

We made the conscious choice to become a family.  Some aspects of our adoption process & life are private.  We are not a less than authentic family because we came to be through adoption.  So please, be sensitive to the privacy that every family deserves.  Consider how these questions might affect the parents and the child.  Talk with us about our family.  Make observations about our dynamics if you like.. Just do it with respect.

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