Letter to My Daughter On Her 3rd Birthday

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My Dear Daughter,

Daughter… Oh, how sweet that word tastes on my lips! It has been 3 years since the story of you was gifted to this world. When you took your first breath, the world changed for the better. That 3 years has passed so quickly, in a series of blinks & blessings. I can still hardly believe it!

People told me a lot of things about becoming a parent, but the one thing that nobody could have explained is this fierce Love I have had for you since the instant I met you. I carry that love with me every second of every day. It is the purest, most powerful love I have ever felt.

When we brought you home at 5lbs, 4 oz, your strength was already evident. I loved you for that then, and I will always love you for it. Don’t let anyone take it away, or smolder it. It is so precious! Every night, before I sing Our Family Song, I tell you the story that I told you on the day that we met:

On the day you were born, all the gods got together and threw a biiiig party. And they decided that you and me and Momma and Lucy should be a family. So, we brought you home from the hospital, and that was the happiest day of our lives.

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Leaving the hospital August 18, 2015

Some people may think that 3 is no big deal, but you are changing so much and so fast that it makes my head spin. So, I want to share with you some of my favorite things about you being 3.

You’re already a girl ahead of your time; you have been from the beginning. You were born a little bit early, spoke early, expressed empathy for others early, and I have a feeling you’ll keep going on this trajectory because you’re already so wise and you understand so much. You’re sensitive, kind and insightful. You’re loving and outspoken and cuddly. I love the way you take my face in your hands and tell me that you love me. You always ask “are you happy?”. I am happy, my darling girl. I’m happy, most of all, that you completed our family. You leave me in awe, every day.

You love your family fiercely. This is a value that I hope remains with you always. At Christmas with our extended family, you stood up at the table, spread your arms out and declared, “This is my family!” The fact that you receive the love poured out to you makes our hearts sing. When you go somewhere with one of us, the other is guaranteed to hear how you want to go back again with your whole family (“I want to go on the Ferris wheel with Mommy AND Momma. With whole my family!”). You constantly tell us that your favorite time is when we are all together. You relish in sitting together, cuddling, talking, having adventures, eating together.. all of it! Being together is when you are happiest, and we are so grateful, because we feel that way too!

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You are so confident & brave. I pray that’s a quality that stays with you and that your self-assurance won’t become too tarnished by the world creeping in. I hope that your strong-will, which sometimes challenges my patience, remains a steady strength that takes you wherever your heart leads you. While it can be challenging because it sometimes delays me as I am rushing through this or that, it is something that I admire most about you, and I appreciate the pause that it forces me to take. You love your beautiful, natural hair, and your brown skin. I pray that you will let this pride ground you and guide you as a strong Black woman.

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Loving your hair!

You are very smart! You’re a true bibliophile, devouring books every day. You have started “reading” to us now, because you’ve memorized so many books almost word-for-word. You quote the things you hear, and I love the profound lessons you take away, and the hilarious things you quote! You are an exceptional listener, and you take in information in a way that impresses us every time you develop a new skill. When you are taught something, you don’t have to be told twice. Watching your mind work and being able to really have conversations is yet another joy for us. You’re engaging and bright, and always tender. You express your feelings so maturely, it sometimes shocks us.

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You’re so funny! You make me laugh every day.  You can talk me out of scolding you with your coy little one-liners and that sweet face looking at me so intently. It’s your way of letting me know that you get it. I love that you are so precocious. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You have music in your bones. You love to dance & sing. You’ve memorized the Sugar Plum Fairy’s solo from The Nutcracker, and you know every move, facial expression & hand gesture from Moana’s (Your favorite movie) How Far I’ll Go & Frozen’s Let It Go. You wake up singing and you sing yourself to sleep at night. You can carry a tune, too! You didn’t get that from me! Your favorite books are Up, Up, Down & Please, Baby, Please, among others. You’re my crafting sidekick, up for any project I put in front of you.

You are so compassionate. If someone is crying, you dash to the scene to ask how you can help, offering a hug, a kind word and whatever moral support you can. You don’t like anything with violence or raised voices. It makes you sad to see people being unkind. When someone is unkind to you, you don’t lash back, and you sometimes get very quiet, but you are learning to use your words to express the injustice that you feel, or just to say “please be kind to me”.

You have a charisma that you aren’t aware of yet. I believe it will serve you well. You make friends wherever you go. I call you the Mayor of Everywhere! When you see other children, you always ask them if they want to be your friend or play with you. When you see babies, you are drawn to them, wanting to hug and kiss and make them smile. You already have quality friendships and you adore your friends, and their families.  They bring you joy, and you return it without any effort at all.

Momma and I both feel so grateful, and that helps us to enjoy the moments, as the days pass so quickly. The weight of the gift we were given when we became your moms is never lost on us. I wish I could keep you little forever, but I am looking forward to continuing to watch you grow into the young lady that you’re meant to be. You’ll do great things, my girl.

As you move into this year, my hope is that you will just keeping being the wonderful, beautiful you that you are. As long as you remember that Mommy and Momma love you more than anything in this world, and stay true to yourself, all will be well. Stay strong, let your voice be heard, be kind, hold your family close. Know that you will always be loved, no matter what. And no matter how old you are, you will always be my Baby Girl.

With All My Love,

Mommy

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Soraya Miré, FMG Survivor, Author and Human Rights Activist: Raising A Baby Activist

Soraya Miré, age 2, with her siblings. Somalia, Africa

Meet Soraya Mire. Life has a beautiful way of bringing people together. Serendipity worked its beautiful magic one day last year, at a local coffee shop where I was writing. As I headed for the largest table in the place, I joined a beautiful woman who smiles with her whole face. Little did I know that asking to take a seat at that table would would lead to a wonderful friendship and a chance to hear, and read, her story. Little did I know that she’d been through the unimaginable, and that she had taken her pain and used it to heal, and to become a leading Human Rights activist, author, lecturer, filmmaker and champion for justice the world over.

Little did I know.. But I know now, and you should know, too. I am so honored that she agreed to be featured as this month’s Raising A Baby Activist post.

Though Soraya was born in Somalia, this story isn’t based in Africa, the Middle East or Asia. All countries, cultures & families have cycles of pain. It is how we choose to look at them, respond to them and act in contradiction to them that matters. This story is based in our own backyard, wherever you are in the world. It is the story of children, of refugees, of moving parts. It is people coming from other cultures that we aren’t aware of. It is in America.

When I started this journey, I was ambivalent about circumcision of little boys. I once interpreted for Deaf parents whose newborn son was being circumcised and I can tell you it was terrible to watch. It was clearly painful to the newborn, and it didn’t make sense. It was bloody and horrible and felt unnecessary, but society taught me the myth that it’s “cleaner”, so witnessing what price a baby has to pay, I made the mental note not to do that if I ever had a son, blocked it out and moved on. I am now keenly aware of my place against circumcising, no matter a person’s gender. With all due respect, cultural norms, be damned.

In her book, The Girl With Three Legs: A Memoir, Soraya writes about the extreme devastation and physical, mental and emotional trauma she faced and overcame as a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation at the tender age of 13. This book takes us on her journey of how she overcame this horrendous trauma, moving forward as a champion for women and girls all over the world. Her story blew the lid off of this largely ignored “rite of passage”. “The misconception,” she explains, “is that this somehow equates to a first drink or experimentation with a drug. Or perhaps even a girl’s first menstrual period. But this has a different meaning. This is something put upon my body before I was even aware of my body.”

How did you become an activist, and what activism have you been involved in?

Looking back, I was born to be an activist. My mom used to say, “You are a reign of terror!” I believe in fairness and justice. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but if I’m right, and something is unjust, I’ll tell you without a filter. I respect religion but we are talking about child abuse under the cloak of culture. Mutilation is the ultimate child abuse. The children subjected to it were born perfect. It’s my choice if I want to enhance my body in any way at the age where I can decide for myself correctly, not influenced by the idea of the perfect body.

When I was faced with the decision to choose my family or my activist path, I was considered to have discarded my family because they disagreed with my choices to speak up and reveal what has been happening young girls in our culture, and many others, for about 2000 years. I had no choice.

I have spoken before the United Nations, U.S. Senate Human Resources & Health Assembly and the World Health Organization. I have worked with medical professionals, government officials and with women and families affected by FGM. My goal is human rights for women & girls, and to end this violent global oppression while empowering women.

I was struck by the way you were able to express the emotions of yourself as a child in your book, going through all of that trauma, but speaking as your adult self. What was that like for you?

I want you to smell that burning rotten flesh. That’s the fire that keeps me going. My voice and experience matters. I know that speaking and making you feel how I felt, you will understand millions of innocent children who are forced into this before their bodies were developed. Women can’t have a normal delivery when they give birth. The fistula -the tissue between the anus and vagina falls off – and childbirth is excruciating.

Let me walk with 3 legs. I would rather my clitoris dangling between my legs. I’d rather be “different”.

People refer to Female Genital Mutiliation as body-enhancing surgery. How could this be viewed as that?? I can’t believe this is actually a real perspective! The belief is that this is the mistake God made; that we need to fix this body so that we can make a woman the wife a husband “should have”. It’s wrong.

These are the hidden secrets in our cultures. This is the shame they live with. I wanted you to know it so that change could happen.

What do you say to the people put off the topic of FGM?

This is a crime against humanity.

There is a difference between Empathy versus Sympathy. Any human being who doesn’t have empathy has no reason to block the feelings of the other human being – especially on the topic of FGM. Sympathy comes in the form of looking horrified, turning a blind eye and downplaying what is actually happening. People say things like “What do you think about yourself? If that happened to me, I would have killed myself. What kind of a woman would I be then?” One American woman told me that she considers any person who has experienced it less of a woman because they are mutilated.

When we think of it in the right context, the response is “You’re a survivor. Beautiful. You were abused; how can we make this right and stop this cycle?”

Somalians and other Africans say ‘you brought the most intimate secret out – we had this.’ The countries and cultures knew. Torturing our kids every hour and we kept silent but I refused. I remember my mother’s eyes looking at me allowing my mother provide the ultimate betrayal.

I love and respect, understand and forgive my mother, but it doesn’t give her the right to do that without fighting for me. I have the right to say ‘you are my mother but you were wrong to do this to me. You thought I was like an animal, to do with me whatever you want.’

This happened to my mother, and her mother, and on and on. My mother was abused and so she continued the cycle with me. I didn’t ask for this so now I ask myself how I can make it better for others.

What is your advice for people who feel exhausted by the current political climate, and who may want to take action but feel that they won’t have an impact on lasting change?

We all have a spark inside. Sometimes dimmed with worries, depression, fear – it takes a lot to get off the couch and make things better. Remember why you wanted to make a change a long time ago. Make the choice to live your truth. Television will numb your brain, and you will find yourself forgetting what your truth was. Beware of the hypocrisy of religion & power.

Stay in touch 100% what your mission and purpose in life is, and you will always have that torch to pass it to the next generation. We were too angry or radical, fighting too many fronts to have a torch. Focus on one issue. CHANGE IS HERE – always remember your mission to have that spark to have that torch.

What is your advice to the youth of today, who may not be able to vote yet?

Educate yourself on the topics at hand. Become an expert and learn the opposition’s facts. A good activist must know what their opponent is thinking before your raise your voice. Be an expert without arrogance. Be authentic. Not only when the cameras shine on you. Others may not see your truth because they see standing in their truth. You have to understand what the other is feeling to bring them over.

Angels make mistakes and become eagles. Too much power goes to our head awhen we allow ego and you really must know what you’re standing for.

  • Know who you are and where you stand.
  • Be humble.
  • The closest people you know will be scared of you standing in your truth
  • Have strong, open dialogue.
  • Never, ever, ever back down when improving someone else’s life and you have done your homework
  • Know your facts.

What about parents who are raising baby activists for the future?

It is the hardest job to raise a child. A parent’s first job is to really understand their own self; making peace with their past, how they felt in society, how they saw their bodies in the eyes of others, how they came to be a parent.

Lead with encouragement and listen with sympathetic ears. Allowing their voices to have a space where they are heard “you’re just a child” Once we have empathy. If I hurt you, I know how it feels because I’ve been there.

Wanting to help their children and making peace, they must accept the child’s decision to have, do and say. The choices of understanding happen at an early age. If you take their choices as an insult, and respond with hostility, you break their heart and you are the one left to look in the mirror. When a child doesn’t understand consequences, too much freedom will lead to issues. Too much screen or phone time is unhealthy living and will damage growth.

Male Circumcision

Soraya & I also spoke about infant male circumcision. This is something inherent to American countries, and something that is not common in other countries. There are so many misconceptions among society, and the medical community who profits from its continuation, about culture, cleanliness/disease prevention,

This is the most thorough resource I have found for understanding how absolutely unnecessary & damaging Circumcision is for boys. My conclusion: Just don’t! Here is what a male experiencing this goes through.

Here is some information about male infant circumcision:

  • Performing a totally unnecessary procedure on an infant who is not at the age of consent is a human rights issue.
  • As the vaginal hood over the clitoris aids in sexual pleasure, so does the foreskin of the penis. This means that circumcised men & women tend to experience less pleasure than uncircumcised people.
  • Amputation of this body part is aesthetic in American society (“it’s what everyone does”, they say. “It’s cleaner”, they say) and it is extremely lucrative to the remainder of medical community which still supports it.
  • The reports of injury, disfigurement, infection and even death have been reported, and many more which have been kept under the radar.
  • It there is no threat to a child’s health, this – again – is medically unnecessary.
  • The idea that the uncircumcised child will be made fun of is a dated excuse for amputation and mutilation. There is a large population of uncircumcised males in the U.S. To think otherwise is a dated way of thinking.
  • As fewer parents request it, the culture is changing from the bottom, up.
  • This is a trauma, chosen and imposed upon a newborn by a parent.
  • Internationally adopted children are being circumcised far beyond the age of infancy in order to “match” their American family members and peers.

Soraya Miré works tirelessly to keep this conversation alive and open, and to continue the progress of the laws against this. Her ability to educate the world about this important issue will continue as she is developing a screenplay of “The Girl with Three Legs: A Memoir”. With the brutal honesty of that which exists in real life, and the Truth of her story, this story must be told!

I can’t say this is in the past”, she says. “What about the next one, and the next one? All of us are born into raising our voices to advance humanity, to make the world a better place for all of us. When I’m feeling good, I can bless others and pay it forward. I stand in acceptance.”

To read more about Soraya’s story, visit http://www.sorayamire.org/

To donate fund to further Soraya’s work, and the making of her film, email: sorayamire@hotmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sorayamire

Heaven

As I join the world in trying to make heads or tails of the fact that the United States has more school shootings than any other country in the world, I was given the direction to “Define Heaven”. Our children are Heaven. They hold the future in their hands, and must be kept safe.

Heaven

Heaven is where you are.

Your life is Heaven.

Heaven is you, safe.

It is the sound of your laughter, your giggles, your cries; your button nose, and the coils that are like silk to my fingers.

Heaven is in your tiny hands and feet, which wont be so tiny anymore, but which will still be Heaven.

It is being with you, no matter what we are doing.

It is being with you after we have been apart.

It is the sun and the stars and the moon that you love so much, whose distance wont touch how much I love you.

Heaven is in your voice, as you tell me so tenderly that you love your family.

It is in the way you wrap your arms around my neck and bury your face to be as close as you can.

It is in the way that you let music take you and you move me to dance with you.

Heaven is watching you grow & change at a rate that makes my head spin.

It is seeing how compassionate you are, and what a good friend you are.

Even though you are so beautifully small, Heaven also makes you mighty.

Your presence here has already made the world better.

You remind me that Heaven is right here, working through you, my child.

You remind me that I live to make sure it stays that way.

You remind me that, as I hold the gift of being your mother,

I am gifted with the responsibility to join all other Heaven-holders to protect Heaven.

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

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*

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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