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My Blog is about many things, adult adoptee, autism, family, laughter, and love, feel free to follow me on my journey, and look through my archives. It takes more than one subject to define me or my family. We are a mixture of a bit of everything!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Open Adoption Blogger Interview

Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project

Recently I came across the blog Production Not Reproduction. I was very excited to see Heather's Blog. I noticed they had an Interview Project coming up but it was past the sign up date. I emailed a request to be added if anyone was dropped and in no time Heather fit me right in. She said she had the perfect Blogger to unite me with... that was the understatement of the year! I was paired up with a beautiful woman the writer of American Family

(You can view other Interviews at Open Adoption Interview Project. You can view her Interview with me at American Family Open Adoption Blogger Interview.)

During our correspondence I learned her daughter L is almost 4 years old and was adopted from China at 11 months, three years ago.  Her older daughter M was born to her and her husband and she is 7.  Her  husband is Chinese/Taiwanese American (born here) and she states she is about as white-bread Midwestern as they come (heh.) I received a very nice email from her stating feel free to ask anything just please keep her family Anonymous. She stated she wanted to remain Anonymous to protect her daughter L's Birth Family! That was the moment I new that our Interview was a match made in Bloggy Heaven! During my research of her blog and our interview I was impressed how Compassion, Respect, and Selflessness was as automatic as breathing.

I'd like to thank the writer of American Family for her honest and heartwarming Interview.

1. You stated you were born in a Trailer. It sounds like your parents provided a loving family for you. However, did your income as a child have anything to do with you wanting to adopt a less fortunate child?

My parents were 17 and 19 when I was born and we did live in a trailer.  Due to a lot of family support, they both managed to finish college and moved on to solid upper-middle class careers.  Our family income steadily increased throughout my childhood. So while I remember times of wanting things we couldn't have, my life certainly wasn't one of deprivation.

I think there are several paths that ended up leading us to adoption. There have always been people in my life who came to their families in ways besides being born to them.  One of my first babysitters had a daughter adopted from Korea.  I have a number of step-cousins who were fully embraced as members of our family.  A good friend of mine in high school was adopted. All these families seemed perfectly fine and not at all unusual, so adoption didn't seem like a foreign concept to me.

When I found myself accidentally knocked up with M, it was not long after Mr. A's youngest sister was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder (kind of like schizophrenia, but not quite as bad) and his dad's diagnosis was either bi-polar disorder or schizo-affective disorder too.   While the research says a biological child of Mr. A's risk isn't too terribly high in the grand scheme of things, we were both a little worried about the future and the possibility of losing our child into the vortex of mental illness.  Our genes aren't really all that special, and too be frank, they felt a little more risky than rolling the dice with a stranger's genes.

Not to say that it is so cut an dry, there were lots of other contributing factors, too.  We didn't really ever think of the child we were adopting as being less fortunate, but we knew there were kids who needed families and we were a family who wanted another child and biology didn't matter that much to us..  It seemed like it could be a good fit.  Adopting from China seemed to be a natural fit for us because Mr. A identifies strongly as Asian or Chinese and he (and I) felt that it would be good for a Chinese kid coming to America to have the opportunity to grow up in a home with an Asian parent.

2. In your blog post love is not enough you said "From day one, I have felt a nagging worry that I am not doing the right things or doing enough for her" Do you still feel that way? If so why?

I do worry about the parenting choices we make.  I think our intentions are generally good, you know what they say about good intentions, right? 

I especially worry about my choices with L because she had a really rough start in the world.  She lost her birth family and then when she came to us, she had experience serious trauma when she lost her home and caregivers.  It took her a long time for her to trust us and to feel safe.  I don't take that trust for granted. 

I also acknowledge my role in her loss of her caregivers and her birthcountry and culture.  We believe that our family is better than no family (or an orphanage) for L, but that doesn't erase her losses. L deserves better than the crappy hand she was dealt.  I want both my girls to grow up feeling confident about themselves, their place in the world and the fact that they are loved and cherished.  That is a big responsibility and I try to live up to it as much as I can, that means I question the choices we make.  That is ok, because I am someone who tends to over-think pretty much everything, so worrying about my choices is par for the course for me.

3. I noticed your daughters attended a Chinese Club.  I am very impressed that you've sought out to teach them about their Culture. Are they still in that Activity and what else are you doing to enrich all your children with the Chinese Culture?
Right now, M has Chinese lessons three times a week and L has lessons with a Chinese tutor once a week.  Eventually, L's lessons will increase as she gets older.  I think learning Chinese is especially important for L because we hope to locate her birth family and I would like her to be able to communicate with them.

We have tried a variety of things to make sure our kids have exposure to Chinese culture.  I am learning to cook Chinese recipes (which makes Mr. A excessively happy).  We celebrate Chinese New Year with Mr. A's family and we celebrate the Moon Festival as one of our family traditions.  We try to make sure our kids have the opportunity to know other Asian or Chinese kids.  We are planning a 2 month trip to China and Taiwan next year. 

We talk to the girls a lot about what it means to be Chinese or Asian American.  Mr. A identifies strongly as Asian American and Chinese so he can be the one who defines those identities and cultures for them, not their white mom.  I am glad I can pass that responsibility on to him because it would feel weird for me to tell them what it means to be Chinese.

4. Can you briefly define Guanxi for those whom have not read your blog? Have you figured out what is expected of you for help in finding L's family yet?

Guanxi is a huge part of Chinese culture.  It means the interconnected web of social relationships and the corresponding responsibilities.  (  The easiest way to explain it to an American is that it is like "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."  But there is a lot more to it.  In any relationship, both parties have a certain responsibility to meet the needs of each other.  The closer the relationship, the bigger the responsibility to help the other party out.

As an American, it is really hard to figure out what our guanxi responsibilities are.  My instinct would be just to offer to pay for the services that people helping us search are offering, but it appears that isn't necessarily the way it is going to play out.  I am fortunate that I have a number of Chinese friends and contacts I can ask and who I trust to frankly tell me what I need to do.  At the same time, the relationship is between our family and our Chinese contacts, so the weight of doing it right falls squarely on us.  We will have to wait and see how things play out, I guess.  

5. Do you have any plans for these two scenarios?

a.What if L's parents want no contact? 

To me, this is the worst possible outcome.  Worse than never finding L's family at all, because it would be a second rejection of her by her parents.  In China, it is reasonable for them to be afraid that others will find out they abandoned their child and probably broke the law by violating the One Child Policy. They could lose their jobs or even go to jail.  It is very possible they won't want to talk to us.

If they want no contact, the first thing I will do is try to get the answers to questions L may have as she gets older in case we never have another opporunity.  (Why was she abandoned?  Does she have siblings?  Health history, etc.)  I also desperately want to have a picture of them so she can see who she looks like.

If they demanded no contact, we would also obviously try to convince them they should have minimum contact for L's benefit (annual letters/photos, etc.)  and to leave the door open to a relationship later.  We would probably have our contact in China visit them occasionally (keeping a very low profile), to encourage them to open up contact.  We will have to build trust with them and that takes time.  I am crossing my fingers that they will be open to contact.

b.What if L's parents want more contact?

If we find L's family, I hope we can have as much contact as possible.  I would like letters/emails/photos/phone calls and visits.  This is a lot to ask from them, I think.  It really depends on the situation and what is best for L.  (e.g. That they are physically and psychologically safe for her to have contact, etc.) 

If her family in China welcomes her back as a member of their family, I will do what I can to facilitate as much contact as possible.  We are committed to visiting China as our finances permit (at least three visits during her childhood, hopefully more).  I have always hoped that we could live in China as a family while the girls are young, but it looks increasingly unlikely that will ever happen.  If L would like to spend some time living in China when she is old enough to make that decision (whether with her birth family or in some other way like being an exchanges student etc.) I think we would be willing to help her do that. 

One other thing I feel like I should address is the question people always seem to ask when I mention we are searching.   What I will do if they want her back???   I can't count the number of times people have said that to me. What if we find out that L was stolen and not given up voluntarily?  The answer to that is hard.  Legally, L is our daughter by both Chinese and international law.  I can't imagine the Chinese government would lose face by rescinding our adoption.  I am not afraid someone will take her away from us.   I won't "give her back" either.  She has had to much trauma in her short life for her to lose another family or be transplanted into another country and culture while she is too young to comprehend it.  Beyond "giving her back",  I am hopeful that sharing L with her Chinese family will be the best thing for her.

I'd like to thank American Family for expanding my family once again. I definitely plan to stay in contact.


My name is Andy. said...

I found your blog through the OA interviews, and I'm glad that I did! I look forward to reading more.

Thanks for sharing!

Oka said...

very interesting

SupahMommy said...

What a beautiful interview Jane! How lovely she and her family seem.


Chief said...

What a wonderful family you found!

Kmama said...

Great interview. The family sounds so interesting.

Evonne said...

What a great interview and a great family!

I love that L's parents are teaching her about her culture and trying to contact her birth family. An open adoption can come with a lot of questions, some of them scary, but most times I think it's a good thing for everyone involved.

Aunt Juicebox said...

Great interview! Very interesting stuff!

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic idea and such a fanulous interview. It is heartwarming to know there are so many special people out there.

Lisa said...

What a great family! I love your interviews.

william said...

sounds brilliant, well done :)

Unknown Mami said...

Both this interview and the one on American Family are great.

I love your perspective on family. It is very welcoming and embracing. It is apparent in many of your posts.

MomZombie said...

Hi Jane, Thanks for visiting my corner of the world. I like your interview because there is so much I can relate to being the adoptive mother of a Chinese daughter. I particularly felt my heart drop when the mother said she acknowledged her role in her child's loss of caregivers and culture. This is the hardest part for us. We will never look Chinese or be Chinese. Even if we master Mandarin and the art of wrapping dumplings we will never do it as part of a passing down of original culture and tradition. Right now she is a happy 4 year old and proud of her China roots but I know the time will come when the big questions will begin.

WannabeVirginia W. said...

Thanks for stopping in. I think I will stay a while if you don't mind.

What an awesome blog. I have tons of questions regarding adoptions of children from "other" cultures.

Shannan said...

Great interviews of you both!

When did I become my Mom said...

Thanks for sharing this story - this was a great interview. My brother's father is Chinese and you've brought back a lot of memories...

Thanks also for your kind words and putting me on to Autspot!