I feel daunted even writing this post. What do I know about adopting? What do I know about trans-racial adoption? Not a whole lot. Not yet, anyway. And yet that is the path that we have decided on as a family, a path which will not be the easiest to navigate, a path that will have lots of hurdles to overcome.
Sure, just having another biological child would have been an easier route. That was our first choice. After our second-born son, we waited a while for the dust to settle. Our boys are only two years apart and it took me years to adjust to the busyness of having two active little tykes in our home. Then, at the age of 38, we felt the time was right to give it another go. We were keen for our third, preferably a girl.
But after two years of trying to conceive, my husband and I both realised, for me somewhat painfully, that we had missed the window of fertility that was open in our early 30s. Now, both aged 40, having a natural child wouldn’t be so easy. Fertility treatment? IVF? We spoke about it, but both of us felt it wasn’t for us. It seemed like an expensive gamble and we didn’t think that it was the right choice for us.
Adoption seemed like the next logical step, although I’m not sure if “logical” is the correct word. It was more of an emotional decision, a step of faith. We knew God wanted us to have a third and adoption is part of his plan, after all. Did he not demonstrate his love for us for adopting us into his spiritual family? “Adoption is my Plan A for your family,” he said, “not my Plan B.” I began to glimpse the beauty of adoption, but from afar.
In my heart, I still yearned for a daughter who looked like me, a little girl with golden hair. In South Africa, adopting a white child is not really a realistic prospect. It took me many months to let go of the little girl I was holding onto inside and embrace the beautiful African princess who was waiting for me.
And even now, after attending a two-day training course through the adoption agency and an Arise workshop and after many conversations with adoptive families, I still don’t feel prepared. I still wonder if we really will be able to do it. Can we give her unconditional love? Yes. A secure home? Yes. Friends, a church and a school of many different culture groups? Yes. Her own culture, her mother tongue, her sense of identity in the world? That’s the hard part. That, and knowing that your tummy mummy has given you up for adoption, a vague sense of disconnect, a search for true belonging.
At least I’m going into this with my eyes open, I suppose. The Arise workshop (a fantastic organisation, by the way) on “Being a Conspicuous Adoptive Family” was enlightening. As parents, we have the dual role of shielding our children from the harsh glare of the world (where race does matter, even though to us it may not) and preparing them to face it on their own one day when they become adults.
In the workshop, clips were shown from a Pact Adoption Alliance video in which pre-teen and teenage adoptees were asked what it felt like to be black or bi-racial and have white parents. Their responses varied. Some seemed quite comfortable in their skin, but others voiced concern about straddling two worlds – the worlds of black and white – and not feeling comfortable in either.
Knowing that my daughter, whom we’ve named Hope, is going to have to face all these questions of identity and race is hard. She will be subject to the scrutiny of the outside world in a way her older brothers were not, just by virtue of the colour of her skin. That doesn’t seem fair. I wish we could live in a safe bubble where these things didn’t matter, where you wouldn’t have to wonder how you’re going to answer the guy in the shopping queue who asks you, “Is that your real daughter?” or “Are you going to keep her?” But the reality, I suppose, is that will have to navigate these bumps in the road, these uncomfortable questions, so that Hope can embark on her quest to find her true identity in life, her place in the world.
Among the young people interviewed in the video was a 12-year-old boy named Caleb. What he said encouraged me: “When you grow up, it still might be hard, but you know that there are other people in the world that share the same experience … It’s good and bad, you know. You have bad thoughts, you get mad sometimes, but there are good thoughts like, ‘I could have a life that isn’t as good as this one.’”
Dearest Hope, wherever you are, we are waiting for you and longing for you. We can’t wait to meet you. No matter what the world says or thinks, you will be ours and we will be yours. We love you. xxx