Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Seven Years Later

My favorite news source, besides Facebook of course, is the New Yorker. It's the best magazine. It regularly blows my brains out. And sometimes other pieces in it are just 'Meh.' I'm not sure what I think about this one, about an international adoption from Haiti.

The writer, John Seabrook, began an adoption before the horrible recent earthquakes there, then he scrambled down to the island as soon as he could to meet his daughter in the wake of the disaster. He writes that he and his wife just wanted a kid, but then it turned into a rescue mission.

I guess I'm ambivalent about this because it's a lot like our story. Our adoption of Adinah began with a lot of paperwork, a slow build of excitement, then a sudden, unexpectedly early trip to Addis Ababa to meet her. It became an emergency in our last days there, when Adinah caught pneumonia. Then just before we got on the plane home, she broke out in a rash, which we thought was maybe an allergic reaction to the anti-biotics. A few hours later we landed in London with a very sick baby. What was supposed to be a four-hour layover turned into an four day hospital stay. When one of the doctors made a "casual" remark about the unreliability of AIDS testing in Africa, we were worried sick for 24 hours as we awaited a new round of test results.

But we were all heroes, and we got through it, got home, and then we started to become a regular family. That was seven years ago.

Maybe every international adoption is an emergency. Or seems like one at the time.

These days, I forget some of what we have experienced. I think we're normal and special, but special in a regular family way. When I look at Adinah, I don't think about all the stuff in John Seabrook's article: the problems of transracial relationships, the wealth gap between Ethiopia and the US, the disasters she may have witnessed in the time Before Us. I look at her and I see my daughter. My most precious A'd.

I don't see a damsel in distress, I don't see a victim. I don't see what a stranger once told us we'd taken on--a superproject. She's not an errand of mercy. She's a little girl, and she's getting bigger all the time. I see that she has darker skin than I do, and I notice that sometimes people stare at us. But I don't repeat 'We're a normal family,' as a mantra. I don't think,'That's racist,' every time someone is mean to us.

I do grimace a little when I read an article like this about adoption, though. Journalists--even those who are adoptive parents themselves--often play up the drama and trauma and ambivalence of the experience. I know I did. But I think that what we share with all families is a lot of uncertainty. As any sort of parent, you can never be certain that your kids will be healthy, or kind, or upstanding, respectable Deep Purple fans. Nobody gets guarantees. Perhaps adoptive parents are exposed to one or two more variables, like what the NAACP or the National Social Workers guild will think about interracial adoptions five years from now when all the hubbub over Brangelina and Madonna has died down. But...who...cares?

Parenting is always a tightrope act. Look down, and you're done. Keep your eyes front--commit--and you might just be okay.

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