Saturday, March 17, 2007

The GREATLY-FEARED.....mongolian spot.

I always end up with sparks shooting out of my ears whenever adoptive parents' cyber-discussions turn to the topic of Mongolian spots (look here for the technical-speak; good picture at bottom of linked page). I'm tired of them being talked about as something to be concerned about, something to cover up; a fear-inducing blemish that can't fade fast enough. You know, I'm not sure exactly how Korean parents feel about their children's Mongolian spots- perhaps they, too, hope for them to fade quickly for all I know. Regardless, there's something just not right about white adoptive parents bringing children from racial backgrounds in which Mongolian spots are prevalent, into a country where it is more likely that someone will be ignorant about said spot(s)....and then wishing for them to fade away quickly so that the Mongolian spot(s) combined with the ignorance won't cause any trouble. Arrrrgh!

We white adoptive parents of children with Mongolian spots are advised to have these bluish-pigmented spots documented to the Nth degree (pics included) in the medical record. We are also advised to carry a copy of all this documentation with us AT ALL TIMES. In addition, we should show our kids' spots to all their caregivers (and anyone else who might ever glance upon their sweet little backsides), carefully explaining what a Mongolian spot is (so the ding-dongs we trust around our children won't report us for suspected child abuse immediately upon seeing the 'bruises'). Is this normal protocol in countries where the majority of the folks actually know what a Mongolian spot is? Is it normal protocol for people who are parenting their biological children? I detest the fact that this is even an issue. An accusation of child abuse is monumental, in and of itself, but if such accusation were to find its crux in such utter ignorance (sometimes more like stupidity) - well, that possibility just angers me to no end.

I'm a mandated reporter (of suspected child abuse). I understand the rationale for such laws, and of course I believe in measures that would reduce or eliminate child abuse. I understand that mandated reporters are not perfect, nor are they expected to make any sort of inquiry if they have minimal reason to suspect abuse - - I get that. But good golly, a Mongolian spot looks absolutely *nothing* like a bruise - right from the most cursory glimpse by the most untrained eye. So, regardless of the good intentions of the mandatory reporting laws, I don't think anyone who doesn't know what a Mongolian spot looks like should be allowed to be a mandated reporter. Child abuse damages children...hell yea...but so do false accusations of abuse...and so does being forced to bare one's backside to 'educate' all the ignorant madated reporters before they have a chance to report.

I have not completely followed this list of suggestions meant to protect myself from allegations. My son's doctor didn't say a word about the Mongolian spots when he examined him (as it should be, in my opinion - even the nurse's aide commented on them as a 'birthmark'). In fact he was so unconcerned about them that I had to ask him to document them in the chart, which he did - though he didn't seem to think it was truly necessary. And that is the extent to which I've gone to 'protect' myself. I figure that I'm helpless against determined ignorance, anyway (as was proven by the complete nutball that verbally and physically attacked an AP last summer when nutball noticed the 'bruised'-and-crying baby riding in a shopping cart at the local grocery store), so I don't spend my days and nights worrying about it. I understand why adoptive parents of kids with Mongolian spots might be concerned, even worried or fearful about being suspected of abuse. But for me it just doesn't jibe to have white parents wishing the spots away because they are surrounded by people to fear (other white people!).

I know this much: a Mongolian spot is an extremely common birthmark. It looks nothing like a bruise. The fact that measures are not taken to ensure that ALL mandated reporters know what Mongolian spots are, is unacceptable. My son is not going to bear the humiliation of Mongolian spot show-and-tell so that dumb people can oooh and ahh and cringe and gasp over him. In my workplace it is likely that soon enough, we will have inservices with updated information about the laws and discussions about mandatory-reporting scenarios. When that happens, I will be happy to present a session about differentiating Mongolian spots from bruises. I will never wish for my son's spots to fade quickly. However long they last (or remain prominent), I will not give my son any reason to think that he should be worried about or ashamed of this natural pigmentation which commonly manifests within people of his race.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Snippets of a run-on thought

My little guy has been sick for a few days now. Little viral demons attacking our house again, I suspect, creating the nasty runny nose and cough and frighteningly high fevers. After he awoke from his nap one late afternoon, he was clingy and still-tired, and I asked him if he wanted to stay with me while I started making supper. In his scratchy, weak little voice, he says,


Riding in his podaegi has been a comfort to him as long as I have known him - and before, I assume. I noticed in Seoul that many of the younger moms transport their babies in the latest and greatest strollers, but in pictures of my son out and about with his foster mom, he is always riding contentedly on her back in one of several podaegis. The first time I saw his sweet face, he looked at me from that same safe vantage point - tucked away against the warm, strong comfort of his beloved foster mother's back. So on this particular afternoon, I put my nurse-mom judgment out of my mind (strapping him to my body is not likely to help the fever issue), and do what seems best for his tired little body and spirit. He perks up a little when he sees his 'ba-pack' and then just as quickly lets himself relax and just 'be' - resting his head on my back, and his body against the strong, quilted fabric.

I allow myself the fleeting, obnoxious, pathetic fantasy that I can somehow turn back time. That I can give to him what has been taken away. I let myself find the tiniest bit of solace in thinking that perhaps this soothing relic of from his infancy has somehow found its way into a different time and place....this little boy's different life.

This past weekend I began and finished reading Jane Jeong Trenka's beautiful memoir, The Language of Blood.
I had feared reading this book for such a long time. I don't remember exactly where, but at some point I got the idea from comments here and there that for an AP to read this book would be incredibly damaging; something one would only do if already contemplating suicide.
I'm horrible at book reviews, so I won't even attempt. All I can say is that I was sucked in to this memoir right from the beginning. I chuckled in several parts at the details of life in the midwest (going off on my own little mental trips back in time). I felt angered at life's injustices - Jane's losses, and my son's. I cried. My husband picked up the book and started reading it page after page, pausing at the very parts I had also found especially poignant. Memories of our trip to Korea (an altogether too short trip almost two years ago) overwhelmed me again. This is an absolutely beautifully-written book and I am sorry that I waited so long to read it.
"We plan to return to Korea someday when our children are older."
If I had a dime for every time I have heard this statement, I would have enough money to jet myself and my son across the ocean with satisfying frequency. Okay, maybe not quite that often, but a lot, nevertheless. What's worse is that I, too, have proclaimed that we will 'return to Korea someday when our son is older'. I meant it, but still it has been nothing more than one of those vague ideas that is so far in the future that you don't plan for it. And we all know what happens when you want to do something but don't plan for it today, or tomorrow, or the next day. You wake up 5, 10, 20 years later and realize you've never done that one thing that you were always so determined to do.
So, this week I am opening up an account which will receive our monthly deposits/investments for the Korea travel fund. I've determined the amount of money that needs to be deposited each month in order for us to be able to take our first trip back to Korea within the next 3 years - and it is really such a small amount that it won't even be missed out of our budget. This is a promise I have made to myself and to my son and I will *not* 'wake up' 15 years from now and find myself sitting here repeating the same, tired, old, never-kept promise.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

About dolls and paying attention

Well. I think my brain went to oatmeal last week after reading a few of the blog entries in adoption-related circles. There are a couple of ideas that I probably need to think through, but - and I say this rarely - I don't think I can right now. Pondering hypotheticals and theories about adoption reform is something that has been very enlightening as I've tried to process the facts and feelings related to being an adoptive parent (or raising an adoptee), but I'm also realizing that there are plenty of little every-day issues that I also need to spend my energy on...

Such as the quest for a cute baby doll with at least half-way realistic Asian features. I realize that countless parents have struggled with this before me, and written about it, too - so nothing new or profound, here; I just wanted my turn to vent. My son is 2.5 right now, and he is really into playing with a doll. He likes to carry one around, change its diaper frequently, throw it (literally) into his crib for a nap, sing 'rock-a-bye baby' to it, sit it at the counter for lunch, cuddle it, sleep with it, and sometimes toss it down the stairs. He has a truly adorable 'Korean' plush doll, but of course that doll stays in his crib all the time and he's not really interested in playing with it - he would rather have his sister's soft-vinyl, more realistic-looking doll - with caucasian features. As much as I love watching him play Mr. Mommy, quite frankly I'm sick of him walking around with this pasty-white, bright blue-eyed doll. Every time I think of taking a picture or video of him (I'm getting ready to send a package to his foster family), I'm embarrassed just at the thought of them thinking that the poor little guy doesn't even have a doll that looks remotely like him.

This isn't my first attempt at finding him a doll - all the previous times I spent hours browsing online and became frustrated and finally gave up. I realize what a dangerous pattern I've gotten into: Think about something, want to do it, want it to be perfect, realize it can't be, give up. I hate so much to admit this or to even dare to put it in writing, but constantly thinking and reading about what adoption should be (or the suggestion that maybe we should scrap everything we know about family and start over with some other paradigm for raising children) and at the same time can't be....worrying about and wanting to perfect real life has just about zapped every last functioning brain cell I ever had (at least that's how I feel right at the moment).

Anyway, my doll requirements are quite simple, or so I thought: I want one with realistic features (though I don't know that we necessarily need to tackle the 'anotomically correct' realism right now...), realistic skin tone (this rules out all the dolls with dark brown 'almond'-shaped eyes and white-white skin....grrr), realistic eye shape (this rules out all the 'asian' dolls with great big round brown eyes....grrr), soft vinyl material, and a nice overall size - this rules out the gorgeous doll I saw online tonight, which is all of 9.5" total, and another very nice doll that is a whopping 22" total. Can't there be a happy medium for goodness' sake?

Funny. Despite having a 4-yr-old daughter, I've never been able to get into doll shopping. I've never cared too much about dolls, period (excepting a brief period in elementary school when I was the *only* kid without a Cabbage Patch Kid for the longest mom wanted to *make* me one. Yeah. Probably one like those homemade ones that, amazingly enough, were even uglier than the real ones. I cried and cried and sulked and finally my grandma had pity on me and bought me a real CPK). After that, I was done with dolls. Most of them are pretty freaky-looking (as in, the kind with 'dolls eyes' that open and close and scare the crap out of you when you pick the doll up and the eyes pop me the shivers just thinking about it) and completely fake-looking. Their little clothes are annoying. Their accessories are numerous and of poor quality. And now here I am stressing about a 10" vs. a 14" vs. a 21" doll...vinyl body vs. soft body...boy parts vs. gender neutral...

It's not that my son should not play with a caucasian-looking doll, but that he shouldn't have to play with one, for lack of other choices. For that matter, my daughter shouldn't be expected to play with a caucasian-looking doll, either. I've already failed Parenting 101 by not having a selection on hand even when she was, by the end of the day today, I will have ordered a variety of dolls for them to play with. And as much as I love browsing and reading all the fabulous adoption-related blogs out there, I need to portion out my time and attention and mental energy a little better so that I'm not missing the things that are right in front of me; and trust me, there are plenty even though I wish it weren't so.