Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The post about adoption

As regular readers of this blog know, recently I've been writing about more personal (maybe intimate or private is the more accurate word to use) issues on this blog--my breast cancer diagnosis, for example. And I've been thinking of writing a post about adoption for a while, but for a variety of reasons I've held back. Mostly because I recognize that writing about adoption is a very emotional, fraught, and provocative topic.

But it's also a topic that needs to be talked about, from a variety of perspectives. Especially when it comes to transnational and transracial adoption. I'd be doing a disservice to this blog by not talking about these issues. And while I could write about this from a dispassionate or seemingly objective perspective, it doesn't seem like that'd be the honest way to approach this topic.

I guess I should re-name the title to be "A post about adoption" because I don't think that this will be the only post I write on this topic. But I do think that I want to start with the personal, because like that feminist mantra says, "The personal is political."

And the personal, in my case, is that Southern Man and I will not be having a child biologically. We will be adopting.

As many of you can guess, my cancer diagnosis played a large role in this decision. But it wasn't the main issue--my age was/is. I am post-35, that magic number that doctor's like to throw around to let you know that the biological clock is tick, tick TICKING away. Added to this was the knowledge that I gained, a year and a half ago, that the age of my ovaries and my chronological age were not in synch--that the age of my eggs are older than I am. So when I got the cancer diagnosis in April and realized that the chemotherapy would knock out my ovarian function, perhaps permanently, and that even if it did come back that the tamoxifen hormone treatment that I'm on precludes pregnancy (you definitely do NOT want to get pregnant on tamoxifen--there are serious birth defects and miscarriages associated with it).

So this summer, while undergoing chemotherapy, I made my peace with this piece of my life. Southern Man and I went through a period of grief and mourning over this, but the further truth of the matter is we had always planned to adopt one way or another. That even if I had been able to get pregnant, only one would come from the womb--a second child would come through adoption.

The complication that cancer has brought about in our adoption is that one of the options we had been considering--adopting from China--is no longer on the table because China is one of several countries that does not allow parents to adopt if one has received a cancer diagnosis.

[Aside: Actually, China also doesn't like their adoptive parents to be overweight or suffer from depression or have chronic health issues--the list of physical and mental ailments that would preclude one from adopting from China is quite daunting. Other countries, like Korea, do not let you adopt if more than 10 years separates you from your partner]

Now, we had not settled decisively on adoption from China, but this option seemed attractive to us for several reasons--most especially because I am Chinese American and my father (and a few other relatives) speak Cantonese AND Mandarin (yep, my family is multi-linguistic). So the violence and loss associated with transnational adoption seems like it would have, potentially, been mitigated through that cultural connection--and certainly in terms of the racial identity--of being Asian American, that this IS something I understand and know on a very deep level.

Discovering that China was no longer an option in terms of adoption has been fraught in many ways for me. In some ways I have felt deep ambivalence about international and transnational adoption. But on the other hand, this means that we may be adopting a child whose ethnic and racial identity does not match either of our own since we have decided to pursue domestic open adoption.

I recognize that this is a very VERY private thing to share in a very VERY public space. And I recognize that people have very VERY strong opinions about adoption--about international versus domestic. About transracial and/or transnational. About the loss attendant in any adoption process.

I know all of that--and I don't want to go in blindly or to be naive about any of this. But in the midst of a year that has brought about many MANY losses and changes in my life, there is a part of me that would like to think of this option as simply this: happy. That the uncertainty of whether I can get pregnant has been taken off the table and what we know is that we will begin the process of open adoption at some point in the future (I'd like to be at least a year post-surgery before even beginning paperwork since even with open adoption it's challenging to have a birth parent select us given my health profile). That we know that we will have a family--that adoption allows us that option still. And that at the end of the day, this is what will make us very happy, and in that way, adoption is a blessing for us.

There's so much more to say--but I think I'll just end here, on a happy note. Because future posts will be discussing thornier subjects that are too complicated and complex to be discussed in a single post--and that shade and shadow the kind of happiness that my previous paragraph declares. But even still, I stand by this declaration: I am happy to know that we will be adopting in the future and that we will have a family.


Jennifer said...

As a transracial adoptive parent of a 7 year old, I have to say that adoption is so much more complicated than I could ever have guessed. I did so much reading and education ahead of time, but I still had no idea. Good luck. I'll be looking forward to updates on your blog. Jennifer

CLAMS said...

as a mom, i am very very very happy for you both!!! as a transracial adoptee also, i will tell you that being adopted was great and I am excited to hear about your process! I think that my 3 siblings that were also transracially adopted, would also say the same.
good luck! and again, congrats on your decision!

Jennifer said...

CLAMS & Jennifer,
Thanks very much for your comments--and your support! It is exciting and scary and I know that there is SO MUCH I NEED TO LEARN and SO MUCH that just any parents needs to learn and/or figure out.

I'll definitely keep you updated--and will be happy for words of wisdom/advice as we go through this process.

Julia said...

Congratulations Jennifer! It is happy news!

And, yes, it is terrifically complicated. But I think, especially given the year you've been through, it's okay to just bask in the happy for a while.

I mean, it's not like you will be able to help yourself from critical examination from all angles at some point--I gather from your blog that's how you're wired. So, I say, enjoy the happy. Trust that your wiring will bring you back to a more critical place when you need it.

And if you ever want to talk through any of it, you know where to find me.

So exciting!!!!!

a Tonggu Momma said...

I will be looking forward to reading updates as you continue on this adoption journey. As a transracial adoptive parent to a seven-year-old, and one who is soon-to-travel to adopt a ten-month-old living in Guangdong Province, I must agree with Jennifer - adoption is so much more complicated than I guessed when we began our journey more than seven years ago. My daughter has blessed me greatly and I can only hope I have blessed her as much.