Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A second adoption

Barely a day goes by that I don't ponder the same question Thirdmom asked in her recent Open Mike: Should TRAs be only children? In my family's situation, the question is modified - should a transracial adoptee be the only adopted child in the family (and thus the only person of a certain race in the family)?

This is something I've struggled with ever since leaving Korea with our son. That experience changed me so completely; there isn't much that is the same in the world after one finds one's self in the position of being the mother of an absolutely precious child who was lost by another mother. Actually, I shouldn't describe that experience so passively, for part of the angst/sorrow/even remorse, sometimes, is that I actively positioned myself to be able to have this experience. It isn't simply a circumstance in which I woke up one day and 'found myself' (and an aside that I feel I must always include: I'm by no means saying that I'm the one who stands to suffer as a result of my involvement in adoption, nor that the emotions I struggle with as I process thoughts about adoption are anything at all in comparison to what a first mother or an adoptee may feel along the way. Again, I'm only sharing my experience, which is the only perspective I know for sure).

Anyway, I have so many opposing thoughts about ever adopting again. When we started this process, we had many misconceptions about adoption (unbeknownst to us at the time) - why it was necessary, why pregnant women choose adoption, whether it was an altruistic thing to do, the specifics about how adoptions are handled and how pregnant women are counseled about relinquishment...the list goes on. At the time, I thought we had the answers we needed in order to proceed with good intentions. Along the way, I've been enlightened a bit by those who have experienced a different aspect of adoption than I. And their experiences have really given me pause to think about whether or not there is a 'right' reason to choose to adopt, and how living with an adoptive relinquishment or growing up as an adoptee can be amongst the most difficult - even the most painful - experiences people can face in life.

With those things in mind, I continually ask myself, how can I be a support, an ally if you will, to those who are affected much differently by adoption than I am - how can I be part of changes that make adoption unnecessary or rarely necessary - when I'm willing to be on the happy end of another (second) adoption? Isn't that an inherent contradiction in thought? I could limit the possibility of ever adoption again to the 'perfect circumstance' (which would be one in which there appeared to be a need for it, in the truest sense of the word) - but right off the bat, I know I'll never be able to guarantee that with a second international adoption - just like I don't know if it was truly necessary for my son to be separated from his Korean mother. I have no real idea how Korean women are counseled about single motherhood or unplanned pregnancies - although I highly suspect that the 'counseling' is not anything of the sort that would make me comfortable that I'd be entering into a completely ethical adoption.

So far, two strikes down. I know (through the voices of others who have shared) that adoption (relinquishment) and growing up as a TRA can be painful experiences, and I know that it is not possible for me to be able to assess whether any potential international adoption is ethical.

What's left in my mind -which is probably the only argument which might convince me to adopt another child - is this idea that my son should not grow up being the only Korean (KA/KAD) in this family. I don't doubt the testimony of those who believe it is extremely important not to be 'alone' in the family as the only transracial adoptee. I have very much believed through my own ponderings on the idea, that it would be extremely beneficial. But it doesn't negate or make irrelevant my other concerns - it means that my family will (ultimately) benefit from the misfortune of yet another Korean woman. It means that another Korean child will grow up with the struggles of living in *my* family, as opposed to the possibility of turning tides and more acceptance of single mothers in Korea - in which case that child could stay with his own mother. Or, given time, enough domestic adoption in Korea that the child could be adopted by extended family or an unrelated Korean family. Somehow I feel as if my just being here, being ready and willing to adopt again (for my son's sake, of course) is helping to feed the system of few rights for pregnant women and children - and is keeping the adoption biz churning.

And lastly (for now, anyway) - what to tell this imaginary second (adopted) child? I hate to put it this way, but with adoption #1 we almost have the excuse of ignorance and inexperience (I know ignorance is not an excuse...it's just that I've heard so many experiences from others since becoming an adoptive parent - there's virtually no way I *couldn't* have been somewhat ignorant prior to becoming one - heck, I still feel dumb as a box of rocks on many of these matters) - but what is the 'excuse' for child #2? Darling, we know how difficult it is to grow up in a family where your parents are white and don't understand your struggles and we understand that it would have been much better if you could have stayed with just about any other family in Korea, and we're very sad that your Korean mother will be living the rest of her life without you....but we just loved your big brother so much that we wanted him to have someone else to struggle along side him and so we adopted you...(?)

Starting with the basic assumption that an adoptive parent would primarily want to adopt a second child because they truly want to add another child to the family and because they are committed to the hard work of being a good adoptive parent - is it then 'okay', given all the other reservations I've mentioned above, to proceed with a second adoption for the (secondary) purpose of not having adopted child #1 be 'alone' in the family? I've put this into words the best I can right now, and have no answers.

And a mini-confession: We are currently expecting child #3 (by birth). I'll admit, as great as the news of changes in Korean adoption is for the future of families, I panicked this summer when the announcements were made, and immediately started making plans to pursue a second adoption. In the midst of that decision-making process, I had to admit just how concerned I am about ever adopting again, and ultimately decided that we could not be rushed or scared into making an adoption decision, in light of our contradicting thoughts about it. So, as it stands now, my son is set to have two caucasian siblings as of next spring. Of course my emotions tell me how wonderful it would be if our family was eventually completed with a Korean sibling (brother) for our children - our son, especially - but my conscience must be clear on this and my heart in the right place. So this is the route we've taken, and I'm comforable for the time being, with some time to think through future possibilities.


At 7:00 PM , Blogger Third Mom said...

Zoe, wonderful news - congratulations!!

Your post is heartfelt and honest, and really lays the situation on the line. I don't know what the right answer is either, and until Korean women are able to obtain the support their need to parent their children there is no right answer. In that case we can only do our best.

I really appreciate your honesty.

At 8:08 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

I say do it. If you and your hubbie are financially able and responsible enough to take on 4 children, please give them another sibling, preferably from Korea. Mike and I often talked about wanting 4 but the only way it was going to happen was if I got pregnant again. I didn't want T to the only adopted child and suddenly become a middle child to boot.

And the best part is that you are an amazingly aware a-parent, which will be an asset to ALL your children.

At 12:10 PM , Blogger alice said...

I know this is (somewhat) jumping in in the middle, because I haven't read all of your previous posts, but how about considering it from this angle: many (most?) single mothers in Korea, at this moment, don't have the support they need to be able to raise their children within Korea. You can work to help change that, by donating funds to support organizations, health clinics, development groups, or whatever organziation's mission strikes you as most likely to succeed.

However, no organization will be able to change the situation immediately, and for the next few years (at least), there will be children who need homes. You can provide one of those homes, while at the same time working to help ensure that the need for TRAs declines. One of the hardest parts for me with TRA is the fact that dealing with the current situation involves paying fees to the government that helped to create the problem, and it feels like supporting the status quo. It may be a cop-out, but supporting the organizations that are trying to change things does make me more comfortable with the overall situation.

At 7:49 PM , Blogger Jae Ran said...

This is a good question. My opinon (and it is based mostly on experiential, not research) - MOST of the korean adoptees I know who had adopted Korean siblings, whether by birth or not, have NOT made a difference. In fact, I'd say the majority of them, as adults mind you, have very little relationships with them. Often this comes due to one adoptee returning to Korea and/or doing birth family searches, or trying to connect with Korean culture, etc. and the other wants nothing to do with any of the above and wants to be "just American" and this rift has torn their relationship apart.

I say, that while it might be nice to have that reflective mirror in the family, as I've come to meet more and more adoptees, I've heard more often than not that it didn't necessarily help them to have a sibling who was also adopted from their same country.

Just my experiences here, like I said. I don't have any *facts* to back it up.

At 7:49 PM , Blogger Jae Ran said...

And p.s. Congratulations!

At 1:18 PM , Blogger zoe said...

I have witnessed that phenomenon in a couple of adoptive families with whom we are acquainted, too, Jae Ran. Thanks for that perspective.

I also will pursue the idea of donating to charities that support a mission for keeping Korean families together. Now, if I could just find the info I need in order to do that. If anyone knows of specific organizations - PLEASE leave a comment. Thanks!

At 9:00 PM , Blogger Kahlan said...

Congratulations, Zoe! I don't have any good answers as we have had our application to adopt a second child just sitting in the office for a while now. I do not think that things are going to change very quickly in Korea, even though I truly wish they would. I think that if the program were to shut down immediately, there would be a huge population of children growing up in orphanages. I do not think that is the best solution. However, I don't think my opinion should count for anything in Korea. Since the program is still open though, we will pursue having another open adoption and do our best.


At 9:01 AM , Blogger ~*Sassafraz* said...

here's an orphanage that could use donations!



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