What Some Intended for Harm, God Intended for Good, Part 2

I got pregnant with Noah eleven months after Jaren was born.  And like Jaren, this pregnancy was unexpected, certainly not planned and once again unintended.   However, this time, I was not as confident as I was when I became pregnant with Jaren.  Rather, I was somewhat fearful, uncertain and wary about my future and our future as a single parent family with the two kids.

After nine months of turmoil as whether or not to have an abortion (something that my children’s father and members of my family wanted), or adoption, or parenting, I was finally ready to give birth to Noah.

A few months earlier, I had talked with my mom and sister about coming to Texas so one of them could take care of Jaren while I was in the hospital giving birth.  Neither one of them was that thrilled about the idea.  It wasn’t so much about taking care of Jaren.  That was the least of their concerns.  Knowing the task at hand and the choice that was laying heavily on me at the time, they both pointed to the other as to say, ‘I think you should go’ or ‘you would be better at this than me’.  The question arose between my mother and sister, “what if she doesn’t want to go through with it?”  My mother was convinced that they would have to find a way to talk me into proceeding with the adoption plan.  This is the moment where coercion subliminally exposes itself.  After they deliberated awhile, my sister made some comment about not being sure she was comfortable with that and finally said, “She’s your daughter; you should be the one to be there.”

After having Jaren, I had lost some family members because of their view of what a family should look like.  Now that I was about to give birth to Jaren’s younger brother, other family members were giving me new ultimatums.  They warned, keeping my new baby may result in losing the rest of my family.  One family member even threatened that if I chose to parent my second child, that I would no longer be welcome in his home.  No mother should have to choose between her child and her family.

I’ve speculated over the years why my family was so headstrong about me not keeping Noah.  Some of my friends jokingly said they had one black child in the family, they didn’t want any more.  But seriously though!  I had been providing a good home to Jaren.  I lived more than a thousand miles away from them.  They weren’t babysitting for me.  I wasn’t asking them for anything.  Nothing!  So why were they so concerned about me parenting my second son about to be born?  It’s mind boggling.  Here I was pregnant and giving birth for the second time and my family was unwilling again to support me, accept me or my family, or my kids.  What should have been a beautiful time for me and my family turned into a dreadful, self-seeking motive for them.

For those who wonder about my adoption intention, this was something I did consider seriously.  However, I knew there was no way that I was going to make that decision while I was still pregnant.  Lots of things can change in nine months.  I understood that all too well.  The following was my statement five months before I gave birth to Noah:

“I understand the above (legal document) and will enter into this agreement only if I am absolutely sure that this is the best decision.”

After I gave birth, I had decided that I couldn’t leave my newborn in the hospital.  It just felt wrong to leave behind my baby boy in the hospital alone. Apparently, unbeknownst to me at the time, my friends and my mother were at odds.  Mom adamantly believed and voiced her opinion that I needed to “give up” this baby.  My friend Sheila (a birthmother), said that was not her place to make those demands.  So when Sheila and mom came to pick me up from the hospital and saw that I had my baby in my arms and I was bringing him home too, mom was very upset.  In fact, I hadn’t seen my mother that upset since her father died.  I could tell she had been crying.  Her face was red and her eyes were swollen.  She wouldn’t look at me.  I had made a choice that she didn’t agree with.  She was sad and mad.  She managed to put on a straight face for the hospital but once we got in the car, her eyes were heavily fighting back tears.  It was a gloomy ride home and I was torn.  I mean, who wants to see their mother crying?  And knowing that you and your choice is the reason she is sad and crying.  It’s a heavy burden to carry.

So I did proceed with relinquishing my parental rights to my new baby boy Noah when he was three days old on Christmas Eve.  On one of the most meaningful holidays of the year, while Christians and non-Christians alike around the world are gathering, eating, opening presents, singing, praying, celebrating with their loved ones, I was getting ready for a goodbye.  But God had different plans.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I’ve had many doubts about my choice to relinquish my parental rights, both before I signed the papers and after.  And the biggest factor that I had the hardest time reconciling was separating my two sons.  If you asked me if I would have gone through with the adoption had my family or mother been less enthusiastic about the adoption of Noah or more supportive of my right to choose without any pressure, I don’t know.  I wish I could have discovered that path on my own instead of feeling like I was given a detour or road block with no choice. However, the one thing I never had any doubts about was the family I had chosen to parent Noah in the chance that I could not.  I felt something special about them.  And they would hold true to that inner quality that I connected with on a piece of paper several months before I gave birth.  For one, we had a verbal open adoption agreement which included sending pictures for 18 years.  However, Noah’s family invited Jaren and me out to lunch less than two weeks after they picked up Noah.  With my family long gone, without a worry or concern how I may be emotional healing or recovering, Noah’s family thought of me.  They could have left that day and could have honored or broke their verbal agreement and no one would have thought anything of it.  I had no legal rights.  My deed was done.  But they didn’t.  They didn’t!

Something in the universe was drawling us together by an action that is normally intended to tear a family apart.

I’ve pondered many times over the years, what if Noah was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  I couldn’t imagine.  And while I have experienced one of the greatest pains a mother can endure, I believe the “not knowing” would have greatly impacted my overall healing and emotional state.

I’ve wondered why Noah’s family decided to keep, increase and cultivate our open adoption agreement.  Despite my children’s father, his family and my family’s initial questionable intentions, Noah’s family has become part of our family.  We’ve made some great memories over the years.  I couldn’t imagine my life without my son Noah or his family in it.  I think for whatever reason, Jaren and I were meant to be a part of Noah’s life in some way.  Whether I was intended to be his parenting mother or not, only God knows.  It’s like the story of Moses.  His mother made a choice in despair.  Once Moses had been found by the pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ [birth] sister petitions to have Moses’ [birth] mom be his nanny.  Now, was all that a part of the divine plan of God?  I’m sure Moses’ mother must have wondered about her choice to place her son in the river at some point in her life.

In the end, having this unique experience to grow has added another layer to my life’s lessons and has provided spiritual enlightenment.  God gave me two beautiful boys.  I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be their mother, whether I am the parenting mother or the birth mother.

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What some intended for harm, God intended for good, part 1

My first born son is a high school junior this year.  It’s hard to believe.  I think back to the time when I first discovered I was pregnant with Jaren.  Yes, he was unexpected.  Yes, he was not planned and under my own limited human perception, unintended.  And even with all that, I was not afraid of my future or our future together; despite his father’s lack of enthusiasm.

Even my family was happy for me.  Until…

Yes, until.

Until about seven months into my pregnancy, they learned that my future son would be half of another race of a man that they did not know nor ever met.  Jaren’s father was mostly African American along with some American Indian.  They acted as if I had done the most horrific thing.  And although I was thirty-four years old and lived more than a thousand miles away, they began to scheme on ways to talk me into getting rid of my baby who had not even been born yet

Then the phone began to ring.  This is how coercion begins.  Mom’s sister called first.  I had not talked with my aunt or seen her in many years.  However, she is calling me not to congratulate me or support me or to ask me how I was doing; no, none of those things.  She was calling me to ask me to “give up” my future infant for adoption.  She was very persuasive in her argument.  Even though just months before she had supported my pregnancy and was a guest at a baby shower given in my honor by my family back home, race had now played a very big factor in my decision to parent my own child.  She thought it would be more difficult to raise a bi-racial son as a single mother.  Apparently raising a white infant is easier than raising a bi-racial infant, especially if the race includes African or a darker skinned race.

It’s not like I didn’t know how my family felt about race.  I remember as a teenager, my mother had a variety of cabbage patch dolls.  One of them was a black cabbage patch doll.  When my niece was a toddler, she would play with the cabbage dolls and carry them over to my step dad.  He would allow my niece to place them in his lap except for one.  Whenever she placed the black cabbage patch doll in his lap, he would throw the doll across the room and call it a derogatory name.  Not the n-word but other derogatory names.  My niece would go get the doll, give it back to him, scold him, and they would repeat this performance several times.

So I knew my family didn’t really care about my role as a single mother.  Neither was their concern that this new offspring that extended from our family tree would get adequate care under my supervision.  They were masking the truth.  They didn’t want to be the family with the daughter who got pregnant by a black man.  They wanted that branch to be removed or at the very least hidden.  If they could just talk me into getting rid of my new baby boy and hide him away through adoption, they would have succeeded; they would have won the coercion battle.

But God had different plans for my son and me.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I don’t know where I would be if I had allowed my family to convince me that parenting my child was wrong.  I’ve thought about that many times over the years.  What if Jaren was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  It’s heartbreaking to think about.  Thankfully, I was stronger and God was louder and I am so very thankful I listened

God has been my source of empowerment and has continued to support and guide me all these years.  I won’t say it’s been easy as a single mother but most things in life are not easy.  But parenting my son has been worth it.  As for the racial aspects, I don’t think it has impacted my life negatively.  I would say I have benefited from the things I have learned as a mother of a mixed-raced family.  Sure, I’ve faced race issues but nothing that I have not been able to handle.  In fact, I would say my family has caused me more hardship about race than society in general.  All of which has helped me learn more about the human race and has increased my understanding and compassion.

As for my son, he is my life.  He has brought so much joy into my world.  He has raised my soul to another level of conscious learning.  I have experienced the greatest love I have ever known.  And I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be his mother.

It All Comes Down to Race

I’m one of those people who sense things.  Call it what you want; intuition, psyche, or inner guidance but earlier this week, I told my son that something felt off.  I said something was about to happen.  I felt the shift before it occurred.  Jaren asked me, “Is it something good or something bad?”  I told him it wasn’t something good.  Something just felt very wrong even though I had no prior information.

We got rid of our cable a couple years ago and opted for Hulu Plus instead.  The one plus side of Hulu is we don’t get bombarded with commercials.  Another aspect of Hulu is we don’t have local news.  Sometimes this is bad and sometimes it seems like a really good thing, especially right now when tension is high in the U.S.  And no matter how you view the Michael Brown story or what side or angle you take, it seems to me when all is said and done, it all comes down to race and the color of a man’s skin and less about an unarmed teenage boy getting shot, or a mother and a father mourning the loss of their son.  All of the sudden there are no exceptions, no “some”, no “few”.  Everyone gets lumped into one category, the white man, the black man, or however people get clustered together for a social or political statement or protest.  And I hate it!

I am not just a white woman.  I am so much more.

Today, after I dropped Jaren off at the local mall with his female friend so they could go shopping for school clothes, it dawned on me that I forgot to tell Jaren to be careful as a mother normally does to a sixteen year old going to a public place without his parent.  Then suddenly I remembered my statement I made to him earlier in the week.  I had forgotten all about it until that moment.  I called Jaren.  I felt this urge to tell him to be extra careful.  Not just as a sixteen year old but as a young man who resembles a black young man more than a white young man.  I told my son to be extra careful today because with everything going on, tempers are high and people are on edge.  I wanted him to be cognizant of his surroundings.

Never have I ever felt the need to impart this type of cautious concern on my son.  But as his mother, I need to recognize the truth about our society and that some people who do not know my son will judge him before they get to know him.

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Trans-racial, Bi-racial

Ying Yang

Ying Yang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, I was reading a post on a group page where an adoptive mother wrote about an issue within her transracial family that had me stunned.

“Is it possible that my 21 month old biracial son will get darker as he gets older?? Or are most little ones as dark as they will get by this age?”

The reason for her inquiry is that her and her husband had adopted an African American girl, now six years old.  She stated that her daughter was very drawn to people of African American descent so when they chose to adopt again, they wanted to adopt a child of African heritage so their daughter could have someone in the family with a similar appearance and ethnic makeup, all of which is very commendable.  But then the story takes a very different tone.  She states that their 21 month old adopted biracial son doesn’t seem to be dark enough for their daughter to connect with so now they are considering adopting again but they are not sure if they should wait for a full blooded African American child or adopt another possible biracial child that was available.  

As a birth mother of biracial children, I take personal issue with this.  Since when do people get to treat children like merchandise in a store?

Naturally, this sweet little girl in the post is attracted to people who look like her.  She was born to people who look like her.  But buying more Black babies is not the answer to fulfill their daughter’s needs.  Thoughts and comments like the one this white adopted mother has expressed are irresponsible, inconsiderate and very disrespectful to her darker skinned children and to the biological birth families. 

When my son’s adoptive parents took their new son to the doctor for his first post-birth checkup, they were confronted with some derogatory comments.  One of the staff members seemed to be concerned about our mutual son’s future skin color.  They warned the adoptive parents that he would have really dark skin and questioned if it was ethical for this all blonde-haired, blue-eyed family to adopt him.

Personally, I don’t have an issue with people adopting outside their race.  I believe the most important things a child needs is a stable home, love and protection.  However, the one thing that does really irritate me is when white families adopt children outside their race and then make their children fit in their white world.  That is an ethnic crime.  For a child to be raised in a white family is one thing.  But then to live in a predominantly white neighborhood, and attend a white church and predominantly white schools is another thing all together and is a grave disservice to the adoptee and their ethnic birthright.

When an adoptee is surrounded by another race and ethnicity, there are other ways that adoptive parents can introduce and include the adoptee’s ethnic culture.  But often times, this is not the case.  

Now I understand that some ethnic communities may be harder to locate than others, depending on where you live.  But, if your adopted child is of African descent, there is no excuse.  Even the smallest of towns have African American Communities with hard working black families.

I wonder why these white adoptive families don’t make more of an effort to be around their child’s ethnic societies.  Why some white adoptive parents of African American children refuse to go out and eat in a Black neighborhood?  Or visit an all-Black church once in a while.  Or shop in a predominantly Black district?  Why indeed?  Is it because they fear that they will be the minority and only White people there?  They might feel uncomfortable?  Will they feel as though they do not belong or fit in?  Or is it because they fear as though they might feel out of their comfort zone?  Surely, it could not be because they don’t like black people since they have adopted a black baby, child, person, right?

So why would they force this upon their child?  And…what message is this teaching their child?

As adoptive parents, if you don’t have any friends (and by friends I mean that are invited over to your house or socially hang out with you) that are non-white folks, you are not part of the solution; you are part of the problem.

We should ask why a transracial adoptive parent chooses not to have any relationships with people of different races especially of the race that mirrors their adopted child.

That doesn’t mean a “token” ethnic friend.  It means acquiring ethnically diverse friends organically.

I understand that white adoptive parents many times, have not experienced a romantic love interest or relationship with someone of their child’s ethnic heritage, unlike biological parents.  But that’s no excuse.

As a biological mother of biracial sons, I too have a responsibility to honor my child’s diverse heritage.  Most biological families don’t have to go searching for it.  We have fallen in love with someone who matches our offspring’s race.  Our families and our friends are all among our community in which we live and breathe.  Even when our children are being raised in single parent homes, many of us still understand how important it is for our children to be able to identify with his or her ethnic heritage on both sides of his or her racial makeup.  That doesn’t mean we understand what it means to be black or the spectrum of racism but it does mean that we have probably had to deal with some level of racism or bigotry due to our mixed race family.

As parents, it’s our job to lead by example, no matter if we are a one-race family, a bi-racial, trans-racial or multiracial family; we all have a responsibility to teach our children about diversity.  We can preach diversity and acceptance all we want, but if our actions don’t match our words, the point is rather mute. 

The only way to truly teach acceptance is by your example.  Many Americans of ALL races, ethnic, religions and social status have not learned that.

So, my question for adoptive parents is, if you are willing to adopt outside your race but you don’t choose folks who look like your child to be invited into your home or chosen to be among your closest friends, what does that say about you?

Perception

Perception

  1. the act or the effect of perceiving

Funny but it still surprises me when I witness someone change their perception of me.  It happened today.

I sat next to a gentleman that I have seen and spoke greetings to for the past couple years.  He is an older man, more of a father type figure.  He has complimented me in the past and told me that I have a positive energy about me that shines.  That always makes me feel good.  It’s much better than someone telling me I am beautiful or something related to my exterior appearance.  An inner glow means that I am shining God’s light and I am living in the light.

The last few months, we’ve sat down after the church service and have gotten to know each other a little better.  He learned that I have a son and I recently introduced them.

Today, he and I sat together during service.  On the way out, he noticed a book I was reading.  I showed it to him, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherri Eldridge.  He got a puzzled look on his face and asked why I was reading this book.  I wondered how curious he really was.

Now at this point, I hesitate for just a moment.  Do I hide the truth and tell him it just seemed like an interesting book to read or do I share the real reason?  I decided to share the true reason.  Truth is always better, right?

I tell him that I am a birth mom.  He looks at me, puzzled again, and then repeats it back to me as a question, “You’re a birth mom?”  Then he fumbles for words to understand and says, “So your son is your son (referring to Jaren), right?”

Calmly with a gentle smile, I explain that Jaren is my son but I had another son who I placed for adoption.

To ease the conversation, I tell my friend how the book is very insightful for anyone to read.  I explain how society has so many stereotypes based around adoption and this book provides a lot of insight.  I see his wheels turning in his mind.  He still seems to be hung up on the “birth” term.

This has happened on many occasions after I tell someone I am a birth mom.   People sometimes get confused on the adoption terminology.  “Who is who again?”  They know me or think they know me but now they’re not sure I am who I am.  I see them trying to figure out their response to me which is contingent on which role I took in the adoption process.  Am I the hero or the villain?

He again grapples to understand and says, “So you have another son that doesn’t live with you?”

“Yes,” I reply.

I see his whole facial expression change.  Something turns in his eyes.  We’ve all been in this situation.  We see or hear something that makes us feel uncomfortable and we try concealing what we think in our mind or feel in our heart.  A positive thought has transferred into a negative thought which almost instantaneously reflects outwardly in the human’s eye.  We try to keep our composure, hide our thoughts and hope that our eyes do not reveal our true feelings.  We don’t want to intentionally hurt anyone.

My church friend’s warm and caring eyes have now become aloof  as he rustles with the stereotypes he has learned from the past.  My self-image takes a direct hit.  

This is where I get really confused.  I mean when I was going through this process, the adoption agency, my mother and parts of society convinced me I was doing this wonderful thing.  I was commended for making the “right” choice.  I was told I was being selfless.  I was like a…..a hero.  But when I get this kind of response still after thirteen years, it makes me question my choice.

So what am I?  Am I a villain or a hero?  Am I selfless or heartless?

Adversity

When I look back on my life, it amazes me how far I have come in the face of adversities.

During uncertain times, we hope that no matter what, we can always count on our family for unconditional love and acceptance but sometimes it just isn’t so.  Such was the case for me when I was expecting my son, Jaren.

What began as a loving supportive family of my unplanned pregnancy, which included a distant baby shower for me (I lived in Texas, they lived in New Jersey) turned suddenly dreadful when my family learned of my child’s mixed ethnicity (African and European American).  My mother was noticeably distraught.  She seemed more concerned as to what she would tell all those who attended the baby shower and even wondered if they would want their gifts returned (by-the-way, they didn’t).  Apparently, they were okay with me being an unwed mother to a white baby.  But being a single mother of a bi-racial (half black) baby was another story all together.

I went along with the charade for my son’s sake.

After my baby was born, some of my family members tried to put their prejudices aside.  Going home was always a divide between love and hate, right and wrong and I strongly debated if I even wanted my son to have a relationship with these relatives whose love for him was initially tarnished solely based on the color of his skin.

I went along with the charade for my son’s sake.

From that moment on, I would not be invited to another holiday dinner or family event due to my step father’s prejudices.  My family made it very clear that they didn’t want to be caught in the middle.  My mother would provide halfhearted excuses and say things like, “That’s the way your father is and he isn’t going to change.”  My older brother and sister would personally tell me to my face that they didn’t think it was fair how I was being treated.  And like our mother, they were unwilling to stand up for me.  Whether they feared openly debating their perspective with our father or whether they were masking their own prejudices internally is unknown to me.  Either way, they all had it in their mind that since I didn’t play by the rules (no interracial dating), that I should have expected this reaction and be happy with what they were offering.

I went along with the charade for my son’s sake.

When Jaren and I flew back home, my step father would go away for a few hours or an overnighter at their summer home so my mother could bring us home for a short visit.  We were on a tight schedule.  Orders were…me and Jaren needed to be out of my parent’s house and out of sight by the time my step father returned home.  I can remember the nervousness my mother had trying to get us packed, out of the house and into the car so she could drop us off at my brother’s or sister’s home.  She had a great fear of running into her husband before we left.  It’s a sad way to live, in my opinion.  And it always left me feeling slighted.

I went along with the charade for my son’s sake.

Whenever we went home, the other grandkids would talk about Poppy, and Jaren would ask questions as to who Poppy was.  Jaren was curious about Poppy.  Often times, my mother would evade questions from Jaren, sometimes becoming flustered by his inquiries.  I remember on one occasion, she responded that Poppy was her husband, for which I gave her a sharp look.  I had to bite my tongue so many times; I’m surprised it didn’t literally fall off.  Truth is, Mom didn’t have any plausible excuses for her young grandson.  She would send pictures either by mail or email to us in Texas of Poppy and the other grandkids, depicting a wonderful loving grandparent and I wondered why my mother felt the need to share them with me and my child.  I finally had to request she not send pictures to avoid confusion.  No child deserves that.

I went along with the charade for my son’s sake.

I remember on one visit back home, me, my sister, her daughter, and Jaren stopped by the local custard stand.  We were sitting at a picnic table when my sister saw our parents in the parking lot.  My sister egged me to go over and introduce my son to his grandfather.  I think my sister wanted to end the divide in our family.  We walked over and stood alongside my father’s car window.  I had Jaren sitting on my hip and said, “Hello.”  My father looked straight ahead.  My sister did most of the talking.  He glanced once or twice at my sister and my niece but never acknowledged me or my son.  My mother sat in the passenger side, eating her desert, saying very little.  Once I returned back to Texas, far enough away, I learned how hateful, prejudice words were said about me and my mixed-race family by some family members and close friends.

Yes, I went along with the charade.  It was a game that I learned to play very well by their rules.    Any disturbances from the rules would have jeopardized the ties that bond and at that time, I was trying to hold onto whatever was available to me.  I thirsted for the love of my family and did not want to be left alone in a world with no family ties.  I wanted my son to have his extended family, even if they were fifteen hundred miles away, even if they were prejudice, even if they were willing to stand and watch one of their very own blood relatives be rejected and rebuked.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  Matthews 25:42-45

Twelve years later, my step dad finally had a change of heart.  My younger brother and his wife were vital in the evolution of our family restoration.  I had the idea of having a 70th surprise birthday party for our mother.  I proposed the idea to my brother and sister-in-law.  They liked the idea and my brother said he would talk it over with our dad.  We needed to make sure he was on board.  I had gone along with the charade for a very long time, but to ask me to help plan something and then say that me and my mixed-race family would not be welcome, well, that’s another story.  I don’t know what my brother said to our father that day but our dad agreed to go along with the party.  This event was the first time that my son and I were at a get-together with our whole family and long-time friends in one place at the same time.  After twelve long years, I felt like a member of this family again.

If you asked me today if I am totally healed from this experience, I will tell you no.  I swallowed my pride and quieted my voice for many years as my wounded heart broke and my eyes filled with penetrating tears.  The ill treatment we received by the ones who were supposed to love us without seizing, with no apology or remorse still haunts me.

I wonder how much one person can bear, how many times one wounded heart can break and how much one soul can withstand before its spirit is weakened.  These are the questions that I may never know the facts and the answer may lie within each lesson.

In the end, I’ve learned a great deal as a mother.  But I would say what I learned from having my biracial family has taught me much more than I could have ever imagined.  It’s taught me to be strong in the face of adversity.   Image

The Birth/Adoption Community

I’ll admit, before I entered into the birth/adoptive community, I was somewhat naïve, judgmental and probably insensitive to what individuals in this community experienced. Now that I have joined the ranks of millions maybe even billions of other birth parents, adoptees and adopters, I see this community in a whole new light.

When I was seeking my son’s new family, all I had to go on at the time was my instincts. I would be choosing complete strangers to whom I had not once previously met; to love, nurture, and parent my child for a lifetime. This in itself is a very daunting task. And then being the mother of a bi-racial son, added to my apprehension for my son’s wellbeing. I mean, just one year prior, members of my own family wanted me to place my first born child for adoption solely on the basis of his mixed ethnicity. I wondered how the families seeking to adopt my new son would differ in their views. Did some or perhaps most carry the same prejudices? Would they be more concerned about his racial background or would they just see a precious child created by God and be willing to love and honor his ethnicity?

I remember almost every detail on the day I reviewed the two family packets who wanted to adopt my son. Yes, only two. Most women (birth mothers to be) will have around ten or more families to consider for their unborn child. I had two. These two white American families were the ones who told the agency they were interested in adopting my baby. It does seem insensitive at times. After all, it’s not like going to a car dealership. I want this color with this kind of hair and these features and so on. But sadly, this is how some people view adoption should be. So naturally, I wondered if these families really wanted my baby or if they were just desperate for any baby. There is a difference.

I understand why some families may not want to adopt outside their race. They fear what others will say and they wonder how their new family will fit into a society. I can tell you from personal experience; at times, it can be more challenging to navigate in the world when your family is of a mixed race. It is what it is. Choosing to do what is right though is not always choosing to do what is easy. And it appears to me that those who are prejudice against other races or are against interracial couples are less judgmental and more accepting of families who adopt bi-racial children than those who conceive them naturally. However, if you are considering adopting a child who is not of your race, think it over long and hard. When someone gives you a stare or makes a comment, how will you respond? I know of one incident that didn’t go so well.

An adoptive mother was checking out in a store with her oldest, biological son and her adopted, bi-racial son. Her adopted son, who was a young toddler at the time, was sitting in the shopping cart. A lady behind them kept staring at them. After a few minutes, the adoptive mother annoyed by the stares barks, “He’s adopted, okay?” Now I know some of you may not see anything wrong with this but hear me out for a moment.

First of all, I am a white mother of a bi-racial son. I have had stares while checking out and not once have I felt the need to blurt out to a complete stranger that my son was biologically mine or that I conceived him.  The adoptive mother’s statement tells this stranger that there is a reason she has this bi-racial child. This is where the hero title comes into play. “You see, I adopted him. I am the good person. I didn’t have a relationship with a black man; I just adopted the child from the woman who did”.

Lastly, if this child was five years old, ten or fifteen years old, would his mother shout out, “He’s adopted,” in front of him? I wonder how that might make her “adopted” son feel? This was neither the time nor the place. Just because he is a baby, and cannot speak, doesn’t mean that he cannot hear or that he doesn’t understand. Trust me; he does understand even if he cannot verbalize his words.

As any mother knows, when you leave your child with someone new, whether it is a new nanny, new daycare or new baby sitter, we worry and hope that our child is getting the best care possible until we pick them up. The difference is when a birth mother leaves her baby with his/her new caretaker, she’s gravely aware that she will not be picking him/her up later on that day. She knows it may be a lifetime until she sees her child again and for some, they weren’t even lucky enough to have that. They left this world not knowing if their choice to relinquish their parental rights to parent their child hindered their child’s experience or enhanced it. Many women took their final breath without ever having the opportunity to see a smile on their child’s face, to caress his cheek or to stroke her hair. I know some of these women and my heart weeps for them.

As for me, I am able to know my son through open adoption. I have touched his face, kissed his cheeks and I’ve seen his beautiful smile light up the room. I know that my birth son’s family has provided a good home to him. And I know they love him. The mere fact that they thought it was important to share their son with his original family says a great deal about their character and it shows respect to me as a human being.

We created our own version of the birth/adoption community and what it meant to us.

Who knows how our son will feel when he is grown. Only time will tell. I hope the fact that he has been able to know his birth family while growing up with his adoptive family has only enhanced his quality of life and that he knows that although I gave him to his adoptive parents; it doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him. I am still here, ever present with love and acceptance, watching him grow and expecting him to do great things with his life.

LIVING BI-RACIAL

Yesterday at church, I introduced myself to one of Jaren’s Sunday school friends.  He gave me this surprised look and said to Jaren, “I didn’t know you were mixed.”  Jaren said, “Yeah.”  Now this doesn’t bother Jaren or me at all. I appreciate someone’s honesty, as long as it is respectful.  And this isn’t the first time that someone looked surprise when they learned that I was Jaren’s mother. Jaren has told me on a number of occasions that he has had kids respond this way at school when his classmates find out he is bi-racial. He said they will often say, “I thought you were straight up black.”

When Jaren was an infant, he was neutral looking and could pass for Latino, Asian, and bi-racial and he seemed to spark a lot of curiosity. I had people stop me often to ask me about his ethnicity, like the time I was in the hospital recovering from giving birth for the second time. My mother and a friend brought Jaren to the hospital so he could meet his new baby brother. One of the nurses came over to me and said she was wondering about the race/ethnicity of my newborn. She informed me that once she saw my toddler, she knew he was of a mixed race. She commented how beautiful Jaren was and asked me what his ethnic background was and I told her. She said, “Makes me want to have a baby with a black man.”

I remember one time, when Jaren was about three years old.  His father hadn’t been over to see him in a long time.  I don’t remember how the conversation started but somehow the subject of race came up.  Jaren’s father asked him, “What are you?”  Jaren proudly said, “I’m black and white!”

Jaren often referred to himself as tan.  And when he saw someone else similar to his skin color, he would say, “They’re tan like me.”  As he got a little older and he noticed in his pictures that his skin tone changed as he aged, he told people, “I was born white but turned black.”  This always made me laugh.  I think others weren’t sure how to respond or react, but we would make light of it.

I let Jaren express himself anyway he wanted, as long as it wasn’t derogatory.  And yes, there were times when I needed to step in and say, “That isn’t appropriate,” just like any other parent of a one-race family/child.  I, like most of you, have heard time and again that prejudice is taught.  And people assume that it always derives from home but I can tell you from experience that my son learned more about prejudices from classmates at school then he did at home.

Recently, we sent in for DNA testing to see how diverse my son really is.  He is mostly of African, European, with some Asian and American Indian and even some Neanderthal.  How about that?  Yes, my son is rich in diversity.  But he is also rich in love.

In the end, we are of ONE race….the human race.