Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the two cutest '50s girls in the world!  Mimi made their skirts, and they just love them.  Zoe is sure she can wear it to school on her birthday, since she gets to be "out of uniform" that day.  I can't seem to convince her that "out of uniform" means regular clothes from this century! At least now that Halloween is over I don't have to try to talk them out of sleeping with them for fear of messing them up. . . .

Hope you and yours had a safe and happy Halloween!

Walking Sleeping Beauty

Today, for the first time, our family went trick-or-treating! The last few years we have been the ones to pass out candy. However, we knew this year with the girls in school we wold have to venture out and join in the fun. Besides, there is a reason Andy rhymes with candy...he is one happy daddy!

I could not find my camera anywhere to take pictures of the girls!

Nichole was not too excited to leave the house, we were having a meltdown. When she is dressed up, she likes to watch a princess show (yes, pretty much our dress-up clothes consist on different princess costumes). She sat on the stroller and held on to her basket with loud protests. Our first stop was enough to get her in the mood! I know what she was thinking, "You mean all I have to do is go to people's houses and they give me a piece of candy? I am in!" And in good-happy Nichole fashion she said, "please", "thank you," and "bye, see you!" to everyone that gave her candy. To the many people we saw, she waved and offered a great smile.

Ellie had a great time and was the only brave one to go to the "scary" houses. Two of our neighbors go all the way out... in a scary way!

Nina, well...this is what she thought of Halloween...

Yes, Nina decided it was a good day to start walking independently! For a lack of a camera I did the best I could at the time, which meant I was using my laptop to tape her. We are hoping this is it! This has happened 2 other times. Nina walks for a day and then, well, she doesn't. Maybe this time she will be walking for good!

If you are looking for the next post about our journey with Down syndrome, hang in there! I made a  "map" and I have 6 more posts to share. I will resume on Wednesday since one of our college friends is coming to visit for a couple of days.

If you are new here, I would love for you to share in our story. You can begin reading here: Road Marker 321. From there, you can click on the links to the next posts. As I have shared before, the next few posts deal with the "ugly" side of dealing with Nichole's diagnosis of Down syndrome. It has been quite the emotional experience to go back and read my journal. I was so mistaken about what life with Nichole would be like. I think about a day like today, as we go trick or treating, and how normal our lives are with her. And how charming she can be! It is sweet when your child stands out because she is demolishing stereotypes, showing people that kids with Down syndrome are more alike than different, that she is the cutest Cinderella out there, she is polite, and she has the ability to inspire love.

What did you do for Halloween? Did you get lots of candy?

Korea: Should overseas adoption continue?

That's the question asked by the Korea Herald, and they offer both pro and con arguments:
YES:Homeless kids deserve a better chance
I strongly believe that inter-country adoption, or ICA, needs to continue indefinitely in Korea because the children have a fundamental right to grow up in loving families, whether they are adopted in Korea or overseas. Every effort should be made for birth families to raise their own children, and the next priority should be given to place them in homes domestically, and the remaining children should have the chance to have their own families overseas. I also believe that the ICA needs to come to an end someday, but now is not the time as there are so many children growing up in institutions who need homes. The ICA should only be discontinued when there are no more children to be sent abroad.

* * *

NO: Single moms need support
As a Korean adoptee who has grown up in a Western country, I acknowledge that war and poverty are good reasons for international adoption. Based on my upbringing in Sweden, I find it hard to accept discrimination toward unwed mothers and the lack of a social welfare system as good reasons for why Korea still is one of the biggest providers of adoptees, especially since Korea today has one of the world’s strongest economies.
Not really plowing new ground, but good to see discussion on this important issue.

LGBT Adoption: Every Child Deserves a Family Act

From the Advocate:
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York introduced legislation Friday that would help almost half a million children in foster care find homes by ending the far-reaching discrimination against LGBT adoptive parents.

The Every Child Deserves a Family Act would eliminate state laws, policies and practices that exclude prospective adoptive and foster parents because of marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. More than 400,000 children await homes in the nation’s foster care system, and some 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.

According to a news release from the senator’s office, “The Every Child Deserves A Family Act would prohibit an entity that receives federal assistance and is involved in adoption or foster care placements from discriminating against prospective adoptive or foster parents solely on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. Congress annually invests more than $8 billion into the child welfare system, and many of these children could be adopted by LGBT couples if the bans in local jurisdictions were removed.”

The Centralia Orphans Chime In

Remember that post a while back about the Centralia (Ohio Illinois -- thanks for the correction, commenter) High School with the mascot name of "the Orphans?"  Well, someone with lots of friends from Centralia High School posted it to facebook, and they've been commenting on the blog post.  The comments are pretty predictable, but you should check them out -- you know me, I want everyone to have their say!  I figured since the post was a couple of weeks ago, regular readers would miss the recent comments unless I mentioned it here.

The wish to deny the facts

I liked this blog post (as always, read the whole thing!) about adoptive parents' persistent denials about trafficking in adoption from a German adoptive parent's blog, Eth.i.A:
As many other adoptive parents, I was once deeply convinced, and I believed from from the bottom of my heart, that the institution of adoption is a proof for the good in people, and an act of humanity. I was also convinced that it would be helpful not only for the child himself, but for his entire community.

What I have learned throughout the roughly five years I was involved in an adoption process and the building of an adoptive family, is, that apart from all these whishes, there is a reality hard to bear:

For some, adoption is a business they make a living of. Not a frugal one, that’s for sure.

For some, adoption is a natural right of infertile adults, consequence of an entitlement to be a parent, no matter what.

For some, adoption created circumstances in their lives that are beyond imagination.

For some, adoption is a fact of life they will have to deal with throughout their lives. They see themselves as survivers.

For some, adoption simply hurts.

For some, adoption is something the Lord has told them to pursue, not only to support orphans, but to „spread the Word.“

For some, ethics in adoption is a term to ridicule – mentioning it means interfering with the Lord’s plan for each child and with the personal dedication the PAP has.

For some, ethics in adoption is a contradiction in terms; they believe there are no „good guys“ in adoption.

For some, adoption means to save lives.

For some, adoption means to create a family with life long relationships between the two families of an adoptee.

For some, adoption means to take over responsibility within their childrens’ country of heritage.

All of these very different concepts of adoption are something that one learns to see as a given variety of views.

There is one reality in the concept of adoption I have been finding hard to accept as a reality. It is that of trafficking into adoption.

Happy Halloween from Ben!

I'm not sure if I mentioned that Ben went to his high school Halloween dance on Friday night. Apparently a group of girls asked him to dance, so he did. Ben transferred to a regular high school in our board in September. It has a deaf/hard of hearing program where the students have some classes on a separate unit and others in the mainstream with interpreters. I just received this message from the head of the program. She sent it to all of his teachers and the principal:

"Ben was our one and only DHH student who showed up to the Halloween dance! His costume was totally awesome! The best! He's got guts! I am so very proud of him! He is one remarkable young man who is displaying his spirit to the fullest."

Silent Sunday




































































Book series brings Madi to life

I LOVED Sarah Leal's first children's book -- So Don't! And See What Happens. She just released a third -- The Cottage Tooth Fairy -- and is working on a fourth. One of the main characters in this series is Madi -- a girl with cerebral palsy who uses a voice device. Madi is based on Sarah's daughter Madi, now 15, who lives with Sarah and her husband Luis in Guelph, Ontario. I asked Sarah why she started this series and why it would be of interest to families of children with disabilities. Here's what she had to say:

I started writing this series when my daughter Madi was little. She had SO MANY appointments and we had to wait in many a waiting room so we would bring a ton of books and read and read and read. After reading the same stories over and over I started to change up the character names to match Madi's friends and family. Then I started to change the stories too. As Madi got older I looked to buy books with a main character with a disability who was hopefully non-verbal -- but had no luck. The only books that I found seemed rather "educational" and that was not what I wanted. I decided that there was a spot for me in the writing world, and that was how I got started writing my books.

All of my stories come from a part of our real life. Then I shape them and sprinkle in some fun. The Cottage Tooth Fairy comes from a real toboggan ride that my husband Luis and Madi took. It resulted in the loss of Madi's first molar and Luis being scolded for not holding on tight enough. LOL! This story has Madi and her fictitious brother Colin finding out what happens when you lose a tooth at the cottage. Childhood hijinks to trick the Tooth Fairy result in a whopper of a problem, and some rather angry cottage wildlife.

My books give an opportunity for a child with a disability to relate to the story without being centred out. Peers can enjoy a story that supports acceptance -- again without being told explicitly.

My books can be shared with peers and educators who are involved in your child's life. Other students may look at their classmate differently when they realize that people with disabilities live lives just like theirs.

One day when Madi was about four a little girl in the park asked me about why Madi uses a wheelchair. I gave my usual response: "Some people are born and need to wear glasses to see. Madi was born and needs to use a wheelchair to get around." The girl said "like a fancy accessory." I just about fell over with laughter. To this little girl the chair was a fancy accessory. Love it! Disability in my stories is an "accessory."

I have sold my books in Canada, the U.S., England, Hong Kong, Australia, Argentina, Dubai, South Africa and New Zealand. I have the best job in the world. My next venture is to get into the school boards and be a guest author. Eventually, perhaps my daughter Madi would like to take this over. It would be amazing for her to go into a class and read to children.

Pom-Pom Pets

For school, Ellie and Nina had to make their own pets.Ellie made a puppy a long time ago, but Nina was taking her time deciding what she wanted to do. When I was a kid, I had a pom-pom craft book. For a while, I was obsessed with pom-poms, making all sorts of creations. One of those creations, were pom-pom pets! So when I heard the girls had to make a pet, I figured it was time to teach the girls the art of making pom-poms. When Ellie realized what Nina and I were up to, she decided she needed to make a new pet. A pom-om puppy!

They turned out pretty cute, don't you think?



 So, this is how you make pom-poms. 
You need sturdy cardboard. We found a box and we cut different sizes. One for the body, one for the head, and 4 for the legs.
Once you have the strips, you wind up the yarn around and make it as thick as you want. The more yarn, the fluffier and fuller the pom-pom.


 


Once you have the desired amount of yarn. Slide it off the cardboard (it helps to bend the cardboard in the middle). Hold it really tight. Then with another piece of yarn, you tie it around the middle. Make a tight knot.

Carefully cut the loops on both sides. 
 

 Once both sides are cut, you begin to see the pom-pom taking shape. Fluff it, and give it a nice "haircut."
Remind your kids that it is only a little haircut, or your pom-poms will get to be really small!

Here you can see how big those pom-poms really do get once they are fluffy.

We were having trouble tying the pom-poms.  Ellie does well with tying, but I was having to do Nina's. I came up with a solution. I cut a slit in the middle of the cardboard strips. I had the girls wind up the yarn around the solid part. When they were done, we slid it to the part where there is the slit. Then they were able to tie the yarn in the middle without loosing the loops. It made it a lot easier!

See? I wish I would have thought of that from the beginning!
 

We got all the pom-poms needed for each pet. Ellie was making a dog, and Nina was making a kitty.
 

Then it was time to glue the pieces together. This is the part that needed special mommy involvement. 
 

I put the glue on the legs. I handed each leg to the girls, and they each placed them on the body. 
 

Next we did the faces. At some point we realized we did not have ears for Nina's kitty. We cut triangles out of brown felt.
I glued all the parts in the face because I was afraid the girls would burn their hands with the hot glue. I had them place the eyes exactly where they wanted them, then I glued them on. Same with the nose. For Nina I did the ears and the whiskers too. Ellie was able to do the snout, and the ears.


Finally, we had the body and the faces. Now we were ready to put them together.

 Nina's kitty! We added a little string of yarn to make a scrawny tail.

And Ellie's puppy.

 Nina with her kitty.

Ellie with her puppy.

And here is Ellie's original puppy. She made it with no help at all! She cut out cardboard, then she covered it with tissue paper. Then she taped all the parts. I think she did fantastic! I told her this puppy is just as nice as the pom-pom one, so much so, that I wanted to share it with you too!

She Has a Broken Heart

The pediatric cardiologist came in the room to go over the results of the echo-cardiogram.  The doctor was a man with soft dark eyes and a gentle disposition. His Indian accent pronounced, yet easy to understand. 

He began by be-bopping what a normal heart sounded like.  Then he proceeded to be- bop to Nichole’s heart. A talent I found helpful in understanding what he was talking about. He said the echo had showed 2 different heart defects. A VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect) and an ASD (Atrial Septal Defect). Basically, Nichole had 2 holes in her heart. He reassured us that most babies are born with a VSD, and that they usually closed on its own. However, this was not always the case for babies with Down syndrome. Because of this, we would not be able to go home the following day. Instead, they would do another echo and watch for progress.

Her heart is broken, just like her. This is happening because she has Down syndrome. 

Down syndrome. Those words consumed my thoughts and my feelings. They robbed me from enjoying my newborn baby. When I looked into her face, I did not see Nichole, I saw Down syndrome. The holes in her heart were magnifying glasses announcing in bold letters…YOUR BABY HAS DOWN SYNDROME!

I knew I was not the only one who saw Down syndrome when looking at her.  My mother had seen it. Even my friend’s 6 year old had exclaimed with innocent delight “She looks just like Jennifer when she opens her eyes!” I knew that if a child could see it, so could everyone else. And I hated it. I hated that it was obvious, I hated that people could see that my baby was different. I hated that I saw her as different, that she was different. I hated that she had Down syndrome.

By the end of the day, I still had not received the promised pump. I felt sure my baby was not nursing successfully.  Sure that it was because of Down syndrome. I needed the pump. I needed to be successful at something, and making milk was the only thing that seemed promising. But there was no pump. I kept asking for the pump, and the answer was always the same. “I will bring it to you as soon as it gets here.” 

I had a baby with a broken heart and a broken sucking reflex.

I don’t know if I can do this much longer.

I picked up Nichole from her bassinet, and our bracelets sang their song in their close proximity.

“We belong together,” I repeated, feigning a happy tone for my husband.

Do we really belong together?

I settled on the couch, time to nurse her once more. Time to worry she was not getting enough to eat. Time to be reminded that she had low muscle tone. 

It is because of Down syndrome

We belong together,” I said once more.

Do we belong together? Because I don’t want to. I don’t want us to belong together.

“We belong together.” My mantra, willing it to the deep places of my heart. Desperate to make it be true.

Yet all I could think was that my baby had Down syndrome. My baby was not getting enough to eat, and she had a broken heart.

So I smiled while I stared at Nichole. Because I was pretending. Pretending that I was okay. Pretending to the nurses, to my husband. Even pretending to myself.

Don't miss:

Pumpkin Patch!

 The girls were out of school on this chilly (well, chilly for Texas!) but beautiful Friday, so we headed to the pumpkin patch.  They had a great time with the hay ride and the hay-bale maze, and were happy to pose anywhere I put 'em!









Sensitivity to Adoption in the Classroom

On Twitter, I found this link to a blog for the Master of Arts in Teaching program at USC, with a student, who is also an adoptive parent, posting about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom:

Last week I was in a 7th grade History class doing my weekly observations for the MAT@USC program. The lesson was about matriarchal lineage in West Africa. Homework was a triple-generational family tree due the following day. Lineage has to do with tracing blood lines, explained the teacher, “but if you are adopted and don’t know your blood lines you can use the blood lines of whoever you live with.” I was taken by surprise by her comments. Sure, a literal translation of lineage is the trace of ancestral blood lines, but adopted children should be secure in their family whether they know their actual blood lines or not. Calling a student’s family “whoever you live with” is highly insensitive and completely inaccurate in the case of adoption. Adopted children may face challenges other children do not, but I am sure that to many adopted children hearing that they are the exception to the rule when it comes to a simple family tree may be disheartening. Adopted students may never have thought about their relationship with their family in those terms. I don’t think a 7th grade History teacher is the person that should point out how they are technically different from their classmates.


Hmm, I'm not sure he's identified the real issue here!  I would have hoped for more from a student getting a degree in teaching. Here's what I said in response in a comment to the post:


Actually, true sensitivity to adoption in the classroom would be to recognize that adoption is in fact different instead of pretending that it is the same as biological relationships.

What the teacher in this classroom should have done was not to pretend that adopted children don't have biological relatives in addition to adopted relatives, but to modify the assignment to allow space for BOTH families on the family tree.

There is actually quite a lot of literature about sensitivity to adoption in the classroom. Have you looked at it? Take a look at the following link to links for a starting place:

http://chinaadoptiontalk.blogs...


I kept it brief.  What else should I have said in the interest of being helpful to a budding teacher?

This Is Tough

When I decided to share our journey with Down syndrome for the month of October (Down syndrome awareness month), I knew it would be tough. Some of the essays you have read here I wrote when Nichole was about 6 months old and I was ready  to process what had taken place.

If you have been reading along, you know that when I was pregnant with Nichole, God gave me a dream, and I knew she would have Down syndrome. Throughout my pregnancy I heard God's voice, "I don't make mistakes" and I believed it, I held on to it. Somehow, I felt ready, I felt prepared. I trusted in God's plan.

Yet, somehow, when Nichole was born...the reality of the situation threatened the very truths I held on to. And somewhere along the way, I let go of those truths and I began to question.I  felt ashamed at my lack of faith, afraid that people in our church would see how I was feeling. A pastor's wife shaking her fist at God and demanding "Why!"

The last days at the hospital became very dark. I have little recollection of them, other than my feelings, and trying to keep it all together. I became obsessed with nursing and pumping for Nichole because it was the only thing I felt I had control over. The simplicity of feeding my baby became a significant part of my journey the first weeks of Nichole's life.

Why do I share this with you now? Because the next part of my journey is quite a vulnerable place in my life. I was in a hole, a deep dark hole. Inviting you in..well...is a little scary. Okay, a lot scary! The entries in my journal during that time, are very hard for me to read, let alone share.

If you have a child with Down syndrome and struggled with your child's diagnosis. I think you might have an idea of how this feels.

Or you might wonder why I am even sharing all this stuff. As a Christian, I felt great shame in questioning God, doubting His perfect plan, doubting that He was indeed blessing me with Nichole. I do not believe that I am the only one who has questioned God. I wish I would have had the courage to share my feelings at the time, because I know now that I would have had great support from those that had walked this road before. And I would have known that it was okay. That for some, questioning God, is part of the journey.

My faith in God, my trust in Him, was a broken vase. I was so broken. Allowing you into that brokenness is hard. But God did meet me in my brokenness, I did come back, much like a prodigal daughter.

In the words of Henry Nouwen...
"The immense joy in welcoming back the lost daughter* hides in the immense sorrow that has gone before....our brokenness may appear beautiful, but our brokenness has no other beauty but the beauty that comes from the compassion that surrounds it."

I will continue to share here, I will continue to write. I am not pushing this to be an October thing. Bear with me, this is hard.

And this is something I want to say, maybe as a disclaimer, because the next few entries will be hard, and dark, and ugly...

Nichole is the most beautiful gift I have been given. I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I would have known the love that would surround me. The joy that shines from this child of mine. The love I have for her is so strong, so different, so fueled by God's own love for me. It is hard to explain. She inspires love in me.

Road Marker 321 came to me also as a dream. It captures the significance of this journey I am sharing with you, it is the most "close to my heart" essay I have written. So as you read, as you see into the hole I was in, please remember that this is a story of transformation, of great beauty, and of a perfect gift. The swamp was such a short moment in the greater scheme of love.



(*Italics by me, and I changed the word son for daughter. From the book "Return of the Prodigal Son")

Quick Takes Friday: Parent/teacher Conferences Edition

Got kids? Got kids on vacation because of parent- teacher conferences? Here's seven quick things you can do to keep busy!

(Hop over to Conversion Diary for more quick takes)

  1. Bored with watching endless kid's programs on TV? Enter to win Weightless by Kate Wicker. You can enter here or at the Natural Parents Network. Not only could you have some lovely new reading material, you can drown at the TV program by surfing the 'Net.
  2. Bake! It's cool here today so I'm going to make some sweet potato buscuits (recipe to come) and maybe restock the freezer with zuchinni muffins.
  3. Enter to win Weightless.
  4. Finish Halloween costumes. I just ironed interfacing to lots of tiny coller/shoulder/armhole pieces for a BRIGHT PINK cheerleading costume. Then I found enough fabric to begin a present for my nephew, cut and ironed it. My machine is down for the count, so I am borrowing my mother in law's and loving it!
  5. At some point, we are going Christmas shopping for gifts for their cousins. Yes, all four kids. In October. Hey, give me some credit for not turning on the Wizard Christmas Rock just yet!

Nursing


My first nursing experience was discomfited. It was not a letdown problem, lack of milk, or latching on. No, Ellie was, quite simply, above average. She latched on, milk flowed, and we were done. Five minutes tops. One side enough to fill her; and my body, asymmetric for 10 months. 

At the hospital, a few nurses insisted that Ellie was not eating enough. They maintained that babies are supposed to feed approximately for 15 minutes on each side. So I worried, and I charted. I wrote down the time she would begin feeding, how long it took, and the number of wet and poopy diapers. With charts in hand, we visited the doctor for a 2-week baby check-up. Some babies are quite efficient, he said. Ellie was putting on weight, and her diapers showed she was getting enough.

This, however, proved to be a challenge when it came to “style.” I sat, with my shirt tightly tucked under my chin, shoulders scrunched, mannequin pose. There was no gazing into my baby’s face, or the “deep bonding” that takes place as you nurse your baby. Forget it; I was trying not to get a neck cramp. Mastering nursing, was not something I had checked off my “first time parenting” list.

Nichole, however, seemed to be doing things by the book. So much so, that not one nurse thought it would be a good idea to have a lactation consultant come, just in case. Just in case, because babies with Down syndrome tend to have low muscle tone, and sucking requires the muscles in the mouth to work properly.

Although I was no expert when it came to nursing, I sensed Nichole was not really nursing well. Her diapers were barely wet between feedings. 

“I am concerned about Nichole’s wet diapers,” I said to a nurse shortly after lunch.

“Oh, what do you mean” she asked sweetly.

“They are barely wet” I responded.

“Oh honey” she replied, “Babies are really small, so their diapers might not feel very wet.”

“The diaper feels almost dry between feedings,” I demanded.

“Don’t worry! She is doing fine!”

It bothered me that the nurse was not concerned like I was. More important, it bothered me she did not take me seriously, like I did not know what I was talking about. She should check to make sure Nichole was eating well.

“I would like a pump so I can measure and see how much Nichole is really eating.” I finally said.

“We don’t just give pumps unless there is a real reason. Sometimes insurance will not cover some things unless there is a real need.”

“Do I seriously need to ask my husband to drive home so he can bring me my pump?”

“No, that will not be necessary.” The nurse assured me, “Your baby is eating just fine. I have seen her eat.”

“Well, at least I want the lactation consultant to come in and watch her eat. Just to make sure she is okay.”

A few minutes later, the loud and robust woman I had met 2 years before when Ellie was born walked in.  I knew her “technique” and I knew she was not shy or afraid to grab body parts. Impossible to forget someone that touches you in private places without asking.

We sat on the couch. Same furniture that became a bed to my husband at night. Her face, too close to my chest as she listened intently at Nichole’s sucking and swallowing. 

“She is doing beautifully!” she announced vociferously, flailing her arms to accentuate her expression.

“Then why are her diapers so…dry?” I asked.

“Hmmm... that certainly should not be the case!” the concern in her expression seemed cartoonish, “She should be having full, wet, diapers.”

I felt relief. And suddenly, I found myself fond of this woman.

“Well, she is not. I was wondering if I could get a pump to track and make sure how much she is really eating.” I asked.

“Yes, I will make sure to send one to you.”

As we were talking, a team of nurses came into the room, wheeling a large machine.

“We are here to do an echo.” One of the nurses announced.

With that, the lactation consultant left and a nurse took Nichole from my arms. They placed her in her clear, plastic crib and stripped her down to her diaper. Her dry diaper. Nichole, tired from nursing, quickly fell asleep. Unaware of the warm gel on her body, and of the ultrasound machine that moved around her chest.


Next: She Has a Broken Heart

Don't miss:
Road Marker 321  
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 1
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 2
My Body Is Cooking a Baby: Part 3
The Dream
Level 2 Ultrasound
Your Baby Might Have Down Syndrome
Surprised by Joy: Part 1
Surprised by Joy: Part 2
Surprised by Joy: Part 3
Surprised by Fear

We Belong Together

Reunion for Kidnapped Child

I've posted before about Carlina White, kidnapped from a New York hospital at 19 days old and raised by the alleged kidnapper. New York Magazine has a long piece about the difficulties in the reunion and Carlina's apparent feelings of split loyalty, which remind me a bit of similar issues in adoption:
Netty Nance is 24 but can seem much younger. Her hair dangles in long, wild braids over enormous gold medallion earrings. On her hand, tattooed in thick script, is her daughter’s name, Samani. “She’s my miracle baby,” Netty tells me. “If it wasn’t for me getting pregnant, this never would have come out.” She is referring to the discovery she made, one so dramatic it upended her life and the lives of the people closest to her. She’s spent much of the past year both embracing what she learned and trying to wish it away.

Seven years ago, Netty was a senior in high school living in a poor section of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and got pregnant. By the fall, she couldn’t hide it anymore, and didn’t want to. She was excited. Her cousin Brittany was pregnant, too, and now they could be mothers together. But she needed prenatal care, and to get free services from the state, she had to have a birth certificate. Her father, Robert Nance, was a sometime drug dealer who only saw Netty now and then. It was her mother, Ann Pettway, who raised and supported her. But when Netty asked her mother how to get the documents, Ann brushed her off. “She said she was going to handle it,” Netty says.

* * *

When Ann came through the door that night, she went straight upstairs to Netty’s room, sat down on the bed, and started weeping. In her whole life, Netty had never seen her mother shed a tear. “What are you crying for?” Netty asked.

“Your mom left you,” Ann Pettway told her, “and she never came back.”

It was a full seven years before Netty learned the rest of her story. Her real name was Carlina White. She had been abducted as a newborn baby, nineteen days after her birth, from Harlem Hospital and never seen again. And Ann Pettway was not only not Netty’s real mother—according to the police, she was her kidnapper.
It's an incredible story.  Be sure to read the whole thing, and let me know what you think -- is there a parallel to adoption here?

A Korean Adoptee's Plea to Parents

This article, Cultural Citizenship, Not Colorblindness,printed in the Korean Quarterly and shared at the Korean Focus website, is especially timely in light of some of the recent tone-deaf comments about race and racism in response to this post about racist Halloween costumes:
Adoptive white parents’ reluctance to talk about race is like a tumor that, if not removed, grows and becomes malignant, spreading throughout and ravaging a person’s body. The mismatch between the worldview of adoptive parents and an adoptee's realities can grow so large that it can kill family relationships like a tumor kills the host organism

* * *

Becoming a cultural citizen for your children means that as a white parent, your racial and cultural identity is different from your Korean child’s. To make up for this deficit requires some changes in behavior. For example, when your child brings up race, you need to talk about it and be honest. It also means that if your child does not bring up issues of race, you must be brave and break the ice. Parents of all minority kids need to talk about the racism that exists all around us and the fact that Asian Americans are not immune from it; it is not simply something black people endure

* * *

If you do not discuss race, power, and privilege on a consistent basis, do not believe that the “tumor” (that I discussed above) will go away by itself. Adopted Korean children will endure stereotypes and racialized identities such as “model minority,” “yellow peril,” “perpetual foreigner,” or ___ (fill in the blank). As a parent and guardian, it is your responsibility to discuss with your children that all of these pejoratives, and even the “positive stereotypes” such as model minority have two common themes: Racism and white privilege

* * *

My plea to adoptive parents and/or people who are considering adoption is to take the process seriously and to realize that you are becoming more than adoptive parents or surrogate parents. You are, or should be, becoming cultural citizens for your children. You will not be able to understand fully what your adopted children face or experience, but this is okay. The best way to persevere is to be honest with yourself and your family.

Talk about race, and talk about feelings. Speak with your adopted child frequently and reassure him/her that although you are white, you are willing to jointly learn about the Korean culture with them. Acknowledge your fallibility and avoid romanticizing the adoption process. Lastly, encourage your child to conduct a birth search if s/he feels compelled to do so. Make your child feel safe if s/he does in fact decide to search, and be willing to support him/her during the process.
Please read the whole thing, and then look again at the photos of Halloween costumes that exploit cultural and racial stereotypes.  Would you still say to your minority child that it's all just good fun?  If the answer is yes, then prepare for tumor removal later in life, and hope the relationship survives the surgery.

China: Black Market Babies

The Atlantic has a piece up on adoption corruption in China, leading off with the story of babies confiscated by birth planning authorities and sold into adoption:
This spring, the business magazine Caixin made headlines around the world when it uncovered corruption at Chinese adoption agencies involving children stolen from their families in Hunan Province and sold for steep prices in the international adoption arena. The news hit hard in the United States, which is home to about 60,000 children adopted from China, mostly girls. Adoptive parents are grappling with the news now that the myth they were once sold on -- that orphanages are overrun with abandoned Chinese girls -- has been shattered.

For years, even social scientists supported this narrative. Two decades ago, when the gender ratio first started to skew sharply toward boys, they assumed these official figures were distorted by millions of unreported newborn girls. The country's strict one-child policy, they reasoned, prompted a widespread number of parents to conceal their additional children to avoid harsh penalties. Because of an enduring preference for boys, they surmised, many parents hid their girls or simply abandoned them.

In recent years, that theory has come undone. "The more we look at the data, the more we realize the hidden children, they are not there," says Yong Cai, a sociologist at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They have never been born or they have simply been aborted." While some do conceal their children or abandon them, sex-selective abortion and poor health care for baby girls account for most of the sex ratio disparity for very young children, which now stands at about 120 males for every 100 females, Cai says.

Here, we tell the stories of families on both sides of the adoption scandal -- an adoptive mother in the United States who discovered her daughter's adoption papers were forged and a Chinese father whose baby was taken from him. We have not used real names to protect the identity of the American woman's adopted daughter and for the Chinese parent's safety.
Even without names used, it's clear that the story of the adoptive mother in the U.S. is the same one reported here by the New York Times (again, anonymously to protect her daughter's identity); the Chinese father's story is likely the same as reported in Caixin Century magazine.

She Has Down Syndrome

“You know that book I just read?” Andy asked sitting at the foot of my hospital bed.

“The Henri Nouwen book?” I replied, “What is it called?”

“Return of the Prodigal Son.” 

“Yes… I remember.” I looked down at Nichole who was sleeping in my arms. Her rhythmic breathing against my chest reminding me she had been inside my body that morning. “Why do you ask?”

“I think God used that book to prepare me for Nichole. For her having Down syndrome.”

 Andy had been talking about this book for the last few months. Henri Nouwen, a priest, had felt God’s call to join L”Arche; a community for people with developmental disabilities. It was in that place, and with those people, that God spoke to Nouwen about his brokenness. The lessons he learned, and the pages of his book, had challenged my husband. The last few months Andy had been on a journey of returning to the “Father” as a prodigal son, much like Nouwen. These outwardly “broken” people had confronted his own broken places.

I swallowed a hint of resentment. It’s bitter taste lingering for a moment. I wanted to shake my fist at God and ask him why He had given me a broken baby. Somehow, I wanted Andy to feel that too. It seemed unfair that he had something to grab on to. Unfair that he held a sense of stability while I was losing my balance in the tight rope of life. No safety net to catch me. 

Eyes still fixed on Nichole, I stroked her back gently. Afraid to make eye contact with my husband. Afraid he would see that I was about to fall.

Andy ended the momentary silence.

“I will call my parents and let them know.”

I busted my intent look on Nichole, “What will you say to them?”

“I don’t know.” He paused for a moment, “I guess I will just tell them that Nichole has Down syndrome.”

Andy had called our parents during the excitement of the morning. He gave the details pertaining the labor, weight, and time of birth.  He shared with them too, that he had been surprised by joy. It did not seem fair that he had to call back…”by the way, your granddaughter has Down syndrome.” I felt cynical.

Andy stood from the foot of the bed. He took a deep breath and walked across the room towards the large windows that spanned across the far wall. He pulled the black flip-phone out of his jeans pocket. I looked down at Nichole once more and willed myself to listen to her steady breathing. 

His parents offered their understanding and the reassurance that Nichole was precious and loved.
My mom and dad, on the other hand, would have to wait for the news. I was not ready to tell people. I was not ready to make that call. 

My mom would be coming the following morning. I would tell her then. I needed time to gather my thoughts. I wanted to own the words I would use when I delivered the news. I was afraid. Afraid of the stigmas of our Mexican culture. Afraid because my mom looked away from people with disabilities. Afraid that she too, would see Nichole as broken. 

Broken.

I hated the fact that my baby was not perfect. I hated the fact that I felt that way.

Andy pulled out the couch and began making the bed. The dark blue sheets contrasting the white institutionalized sheets on my bed. The same bed where I had given birth that morning. An IV still attached to my arm and a broken baby sleeping in my arms.

I don’t make mistakes.

Then why. Why did it feel like it was a mistake?

Andy came to my bed and reached out his arms. I handed Nichole to him and he gently kissed her on her forehead. He walked towards the bed and laid down, with Nichole resting peacefully on his chest. He reached out for the remote control and turned the television on.

“What do you want to watch?” he asked.

“Anything. I really don’t care.”

The noise of a game show filled the room, sending me into a trance. The physical and emotional exhaustion of the day taking over. And somehow, it was morning.

I would call my dad first. He always took things better.

“Dad” I said, “Nichole has Down syndrome.”

There was a pause and I heard a deep sigh. “You know sweetheart.” he gently replied “If you had to choose a disability for any of your children; you would want it to be Down syndrome.”

My dad worked as an interpreter for several Children’s Hospitals. I knew he had seen and interacted with hundreds of children with special needs.

“I don’t know what it is” he continued, “but the connection I see between these parents and their children is uncommon. It is touching. It makes me wonder what it is they have that other people don’t. And they feel so lucky, so lucky to have their children.”

His words touched me. I was struggling to feel connected to Nichole. Every time, as our matching bracelets would reunite I whispered, “we belong together.” It was another reminder that I needed this to be true. It was a morsel of hope.

My mother arrived at the hospital mid-morning, ready to meet her new granddaughter. She smiled and awed at how beautiful Nichole was. She took her from my arms and settled in the rocking chair by my bed while Andy took a break and went for a walk. She rocked my baby, back and forth.

I wanted to tell her that God had picked us for a reason. To tell her that somehow this was part of God’s plan. I wanted to justify how it was okay that my child had special needs. 

I sat at the edge of the bed, watching them. Watching my mom, her expression. 

“She has Down syndrome.” I blurted out.

My mom continued to look at Nichole, continued to rock, same smile on her face.

“I know,” she said.

She knew. And nothing changed. I watched them, rocking together. Grandmother and child.

“Take a picture of us will you?” she asked, “I want to remember the day that God sent a little baby girl to change our lives.”

My mother and this relationship we had. So tested, yet so strong. More than anyone else, I cared about what she thought. Maybe because I knew I was so much like her. Maybe because if I saw strength in her, I knew I could be strong too.
 

Next: Nursing

Don't miss the beginning of our story:

Native American Children & Foster Care

NPR is doing a three-part series on American Indian children in foster care in.  From Part I, broadcast yesterday:
The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that, except in the rarest circumstances, Indian children must be placed with relatives, a tribal member or at the very least, another Native American. It also says the state must make every effort to first keep a family together with services and programs.

The law was passed in 1978 in response to a century-long practice of forcing Native American children into harsh and often abusive boarding schools where they lost contact with their culture, traditions, language and families.

Except now a generation of children is once again losing its connection to its culture. This time it's through state-run foster care.

In South Dakota, Native American children make up only 15 percent of the child population, yet they make up more than half the children in foster care. An NPR News investigation has found that the state is removing 700 native children every year, sometimes in questionable circumstances. According to a review of state records, it is also largely failing to place native children with their relatives or tribes.

According to state records, almost 90 percent of the kids in family foster care are in non-native homes or group care.

State officials say they're doing everything they can to keep native families together. Poverty, crime and alcoholism are all real problems on South Dakota's reservations and in the state's poorest areas. But, state records show there's another powerful force at work — money. The federal government sends the state thousands of dollars for every child it takes.
Click for Part II. (I'll add the link for Part III when available.)

More About "Cole Babies"

I've posted before about the Cole Babies -- "infants delivered by Coral Gables-based naturopathic physician Dr. Katherine Cole, who profited from falsifying birth certificates and selling babies to infertile couples up and down the Eastern Seaboard."  Here's more:
Josette Marquess, a retired Florida adoption official, has guided dozens of Cole babies through mostly fruitless state searches, and has become the state’s expert on Cole.

Marquess said working with Cole babies was “heartbreaking, because I knew there was really nothing I could do to help them.”

“In order to have a reunion, you really need a paper trail to follow and the particular nastiness of Dr. Cole was, she made sure there was no paper trail.”

Cole — known throughout the Coral Gables community as “Granny Doc” — operated an illegal abortion clinic and a legal adoption center from the mid-1930s to the late 1960s. Young pregnant girls who “got in trouble” would visit her clinic, and Cole convinced them to give their babies up for adoption, Marquess said.

Marquess said the doctor owned a number of apartment buildings within a three-block radius of her clinic. Both the pregnant girls and the adopting couples would stay there until the delivery.

Cole would assess each infertile couple individually, charging anywhere from $25 to $10,000 for a baby.

“All you needed was a wedding ring and $5,000 and you were good to go,” Marquess said. “She probably placed, at a minimum, 200 babies a year and she operated in Florida for more than 30 years — even with a little prison stint in there. That’s thousands of people who will never know their true identity.”

Armadillo update















Thanks everyone for your wonderful ideas and links.

Alas, I was not able to come up with an armadillo costume. I did call some costume places and Ben and I went to one today in the hopes that they would help us piece something together that could pass as an armadillo.

No luck. We were told that that unusual-looking creature would be a "custom-build" and would require lots of advance preparation.

So, instead, Ben has decided to be a musketeer. He has one of those cool hats (see above) and a burgundy cape, some red gloves and a flintlock pistol replica (I think that's what it's called).

What are your kids wearing??

Weightless by Kate Wicker

This is a joint giveaway with WaldenMommy and Family: Life Behind the Red Front Door and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory entry and optional bonus entries.

Weightless by Kate Wicker

St. Anthony Messenger Press and Kate Wicker are offering our readers a giveaway of two copies of Kate's new book, Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body,, a value of $13 each, or $26 total. Two lucky readers will win!

Weightless is a Roman Catholic mother's hard-won perspective on eating and body image. Kate Wicker takes readers on a devotional journey toward loving their bodies as God intended.


From our reviewer, Laura of Walden Mommy:

Many, if not most, women are no stranger to body image problems. From rapidly changing bodies in puberty, to childbirth and nursing and then issues as we grow older, our bodies are always changing … and not in ways we might like! Coupled with the messages screamed from the media (“Thinner is better! You can and should be like the stars who lose all the baby weight in two weeks!"), it’s no wonder many women have a distorted view of their bodies.

Kate Wicker, author of Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body, agrees with me. As a child and teen, she often felt like she was fat and wasn't pretty enough. When she was older, this idea turned into an eating disorder. After therapy, hard work, and loving support from her family, she was clinically cured but still felt sick. It was then that she realized she was spiritually sick and only God could truly heal her and help her be at peace with her body.

Weightless isn’t just another self-help book or story of a woman’s eating disorder, although bits and pieces are scattered throughout the book. It's part devotional, part personal reflections, and all deep thinking. She brings her past experiences to the plate, while offering her readers spiritual food for thought. In it, she reflects on the media's portrayal of health and how that influences how women view themselves. She also asks us to look at ourselves and how our view of our bodies shapes our faith lives and our relationship with God and our human family.

Weightless is a short book, and each chapter targets a different area, such as aging or keeping a healthy balance. It is easy to read and could be read in one sitting. However, each chapter also “stands alone” and could be read one at a time.

Each chapter is also divided into different sections, such as "Soul Food" and "Meditations." The reflection sections are perfect to use alone or with a small group. In fact, the book itself is very versatile and could be used privately or in a small group discussion.

Wicker is a Roman Catholic, and this book uses Catholic teaching to help its readers form a healthy view of themselves. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Bible, and the lives of various saints are often quoted. Many times, the author urges her readers to pray, fast (when and if appropriate), and partake of Communion (the perfect Food) to help them through their struggles.

She reminds us that it is not what one looks like on the outside that matters, but what is inside. She uses Saint Damien of Molokai as an example. Saint Damien is often portrayed as looking “normal,” yet he died of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy), a disease that literally eats away at the skin. Saint Damien’s outside was not what society would consider beautiful, but his inside was lovely to behold. Saint Damien also saw Christ in everyone he worked with, including the very ill people in Kalaupapa. Wicker urges her readers to do the same.

Review

Many spiritual books about body image or weight loss are Protestant or focus on New Age religions. Those books fill a need for many people. However, there is a lack of good, quality books written by today’s Catholic writers for Catholics living in today’s world. Many books I have read for my Catholic book clubs were written over thirty years ago. While nice to read, they lacked an overall appeal to women living, parenting, and trying to raise faithful Catholics in the modern world.

This book helps to fill that void. I enjoyed reading this book freely, without having to censor what would not work for my faith. While Wicker does quote some “oldie but goodie” saints, such as St. Teresa of Avila, she also looks to the lives of newly canonized saints (such as St. Damien) for inspiration. It’s always a pleasure to read more about new “saints.”

I found that the overriding message of this book is love. Love yourself as God loves you. Love everyone, as Christ loves them. Look to God to help you love yourself, for it is only through His love that we can be at peace with ourselves. Remember that God loved you so much that He made you exactly as you are, perceived bodily imperfections and all. He does not view your outer shell as imperfect so why, then, should you?

BUY IT!

You can purchase your own copy of Weightless at Amazon. The retail price is $12.99, and it is currently on sale for $10.39 and eligible for Free Super-Saver Shipping. You can buy a personalized copy at KateWicker.com.

WIN IT!

For your own chance to win one of two copies of Weightless from St. Anthony's Press, enter in the comments below. Two winners will receive one copy of the book each. Contest is open to United States mailing addresses only.



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_________________________

Laura is most often found driving her herd of four small children around mid-western suburbia or tackling Mt. NeverEndingLaundry. Online, she blogs at WaldenMommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door about her life with The Herd, her Engineer Husband and their pesky dog; her faith; and dealing with post-partum PTSD following the premature birth of her third child. A natural birthing, breastfeeding, baby-wearing, semi-co-sleeping, healthy eating, green living hippie who likes shopping and shoes, she doesn't claim to be a perfect mother . . . but is the perfect mother for her children.