Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gender Confusion

They grow.

They grow and they grow and they grow.

Paxton is starting to read. He's quite proud of it. He made it through all 72 sight words in his flash card set a few days ago with some help. I still need to help him with vowels but otherwise he can typically put a word together by himself and many really are becoming sight words. He's happier back in school and is just learning and growing and blowing us away. He'll be 5 in a couple months. That just doesn't seem possible...

Ambrose is showing signs of starting to walk. He crawls fast, he does his bizarre crawl with one leg up like he's walking and one bent to crawl. He pushes his bum up in the air and stands in an arch for awhile but can't make himself stand. Sometimes he'll pull up on us or furniture and let go. He's a bit scared of it, though, not yet ready. He often sits right down if we're holding his hands and let go. And that's fine. I was worried about his other milestones, like sitting up and crawling, but I've come to realize that he just needs to get to where he's mentally ready even if I can tell he's already physically capable. That's just my boy :)


Now on to the title of this post...

We're about to submit our paperwork to the adoption agency we've chosen this time around. In about a month or so we're likely to be ready and waiting. An "active" family, with a 6-9 month timeframe for waiting. It would be more like "within six months" if we chose a boy.

And I guess that leads me into our dilemma: Boy or girl?

I've probably written about this a few times now. See, in Mr. Adoption World you have two options: you can choose to adopt a girl and have a longer wait as everyone and their mother wants a girl, or you can choose to adopt a boy and have a shorter wait. Generally leaving gender opens means the same as choosing a boy. Okay, no, not always, but the odds are typically considerably skewed in favor of boy. Some agencies will not check on gender of baby or will not allow couples to pick a gender, but the agency that seems right for us this time around, and the agencies we chose for our other two adoptions, all had this at truth.

Essentially, we HAVE to choose. By leaving it open we're pretty much saying "boy" anyway so there's no real "leaving it up to fate". And in all honesty if fate wanted me to parent half a dozen baby boys then so be it. But since I HAVE to choose...

We have two sons. We've experienced the joy of baby boys. And this might be our final child (hopefully not but it might be) so really the "sensible" thing would be to go ahead and choose girl. And that's our plan. Make sure we have at least one daughter since to say "boy" or leave it open might forever close the door on holding our baby daughter in our arms.

But on the other hand, we LOVE our boys, and we'd love another boy, and so, so many people are not enamored with the thought of a son. If we were to open ourselves up to both genders or only request a boy then we'd be adopting a less coveted child whom we would most certainly love and adore.

So... what do we do? Do we say "no girls ever" and only adopt boys since we are more than fine with having a houseful of little men? Or do we even out the gender disparity and bring in a daughter? Would we regret never having a girl? As much as never conceiving or birthing a child? Or would we regret waiting in line with so, so many others for a healthy infant girl while little baby boys are waiting alone in hospitals while agencies scramble to find them homes?

Which one can I live with? Which one would bring us peace? Which one is right for our family?

I believe our "course of action" now is that we're going to sign on with the agency and ask for a girl but should there be a need, should there be a little, lonely baby boy waiting in a hospital room in Utah and no family stepping up to the plate.... could we really say no?

Perhaps I'm over thinking this. All of these babies will get homes and if we're inclined toward a girl perhaps it is in the child's best interest that we only adopt a girl. What if we adopted a son and he found out that we'd requested a girl first and felt he was second best? What if he felt we only adopted him out of pity? What if those around us felt that?

And what if it doesn't matter in the least? What if our next child, boy or girl, will find us no matter the road we choose? What if everything is already set in stone and there's not a dang thing we can do to change it?

And while I'm at it, why am I even thinking about it like this? Why am I looking at the arrival of our next child not as a blessing but as a loss? Why am I thinking "if we adopt a girl we miss a boy" and "if we adopt a boy we miss a girl"? Why can't I just be ecstatic that, my God, there'll be ANOTHER one! Another blessing! Another miracle to grace our home! Why am I spending so much time thinking about "what won't be if" and not so much time one what will be? Why does it feel as if I'm losing out on something wonderful no matter which choice we make?

Because in reality it's not "we'd be forever missing our only daughter/third son" but "we'd be forever blessed with our only daughter/third son."

Perhaps the issue is that we've chosen names and I know which name I wouldn't be able to call out on the playground. Or perhaps the issue is the fear of finality, that this truly may be our last child, that it might actually be an only daughter/third son and then no more.

And maybe it all goes back to the fact that our family building didn't happen the way we'd planned to begin with. Maybe it has something to do with all the inherent losses in the way we've build our family: loss of birth child for us, loss of birth family for them, loss of anonymity, loss of mundanity, loss of spontaneity.

Maybe that last one, the fact that we CAN'T be spontaneous and just wait and see if we get pregnant and just wait and see what gender we'll be blessed with... perhaps that's it. We don't get the luxury of just sitting back and seeing what happens, we have to work for it, we have to strive and toil and earn our children.

But I digress... and really, I don't want to go down the path I just moved towards. We may have worked for our children but we don't own them and I refuse to play a battle of semantics with me, myself and I.

I suppose I should leave off with this:
There were many hopes I had along this path. Many visions of how our family would look. At times I saw children who looked like us, or children who looked only like each other, or children representing every shade of the flesh rainbow. I saw daughters from Vietnam, Kazakhstan and the Congo, and sons from Rwanda and Cambodia and Colombia. I saw siblings arriving together, I saw older kids in foster care, I saw huge gatherings and family reunions.

Our family constantly shifts in my mind and in some ways I still grieve. I grieve for the children I will very likely never bear from my womb. I grieve for the Vietnamese daughter who felt, and still feels, so close to my heart. And likewise I grieve for all the children who would love to come home, would love to have a family, would thrive under our care, and who would adore our two sons as their brothers. I grieve that adoption can't be easier, that there are children waiting at all, that there are waitlists for some types of children and not for others. And I regret that we're about to put ourselves on a waitlist while other children stare out somberly from photographs in third world nations in hopes of finding parents to love them.

And I really, really regret that the most sought after type of child, a healthy newborn girl, is our goal and what we're signing up for. And at the same time I regret not feeling bad enough about that to switch right to boy or special needs or older child or... well, what have you.

This post has somehow made my heart heavy while lightening the load all the same. I will trust... I DO trust... that it will work out as it should. That everything will be as it should be. That there is a rhyme and reason.

But one can't help but wonder what would happen if they made the other choice...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sometimes it hits me head on...

Ambrose is 11 months. In just under 4 weeks he'll be reaching his first birthday, a major milestone for all of us. He's growing like a weed, a plump, fast, talkative and utterly adorable weed, and oh God how I love this child!

But some days I stare at him and think "a year is just so young!" And I start to become emotional.

I wasn't sure why.

I told myself "some people wean at a year. I originally thought I'd wean at a year. I just couldn't do that." And maybe that was why I was emotional. And I told myself "some people consider him a toddler at a year. They start to parent very differently." And I told myself "some people turn around the car seats at a year, even with a higher risk of injury."

You see, even though the "One Year" milestone makes me a bit weepy for the loss of the baby age, there was something else, something lurking. Something just kept getting to me, niggling in the back of my mind that a one year old is just so, so, so little.

And then I remembered.


He was a year old when he was orphaned.

And that realization took my breath away.


Look at this child, 11 months old. Now, imagine him living in a poor nation, born to poor parents. Imagine him smaller, because food was scarce and breast milk was dwindling. Imagine him dirtier, as they didn't have running water. Imagine him without medical care, without band aids and Neosporin. Imagine him without a sound machine and night light and clean sheets. Imagine him in a small mud hut with goat droppings on the floor.

And beyond that, imagine him losing us. Having the food supply slowly run dry. Having his mother sob because she didn't have enough milk for him and he was so, so hungry. I can just take more domperidone or even run to the store for formula. I have the clean bottles here. She had nothing. And Paxton remembers her crying while trying to feed him, and he remembers the hunger. He shouldn't remember that, but children who've been through severe trauma often remember things before 12 months. Imagine Ambrose going through it. Imagine him remembering it, clearly, for the rest of his life.


Imagine Ambrose and Paxton leaving our home after our deaths, going to a new home with a family member. Imagine them trying to fit in amongst their grief. Imagine Ambrose fighting for food with a cousin. Imagine him learning to walk and crawl and smile and laugh, while at the same time learning to adjust to a new home.

Now imagine him older, walking, or toddling rather. Imagine that life is still hard, food is still scarce, but he's finally starting to make sense of it all and finally fitting in.

Now imagine these two brothers being ripped apart. Imagine Ambrose never seeing Paxton again. Imagine him going several hours away to an orphanage with several dozen children and other languages.

Imagine what that would do to a child.


Now older, now warier, imagine him alone in a crowd. Refusing food. Refusing comfort. Losing weight. Imagine him finally starting to adjust, again, just a bit, just starting to trust, and then suddenly....

There are people there who look nothing like him, possibly nothing like anyone he's ever seen before. They don't speak his language, don't understand him and can't be understood by him. They smell different. And they take him away from his third home.

Sure, they provide things. They give him a warm bed and lots of food and medical care and toys. They cuddle and sing and read to him. They help him to grow, help him to adjust yet again, help him to integrate for a 3rd time.

But really... how could you expect a fairy tale ending?

Oh, sure, the accepted mindset is that kids will be fine, and likely he will be "fine" as he grows. He'll grow and mature and live a great life.

But at the back of his mind there'll always be fear, always anxiety.

When the very fabric of your existence is built on loss, on grief, on despair, how could you ever been 100% over that?

And as much as I'd love to believe that there will ever be a time when Paxton's previous life won't in any way matter to him, won't in any way interfere with his current or future life...

I look at the tiny baby in my arms. I imagine him, so bonded to us, losing us. Being shuffled around. Being made to integrate. Losing Paxton. Losing America. Losing English. Losing the foods he loves and the culture he knows.

I imagine him going through even a tiny bit of what Paxton's been through and I realize, my God, my older son must be one of the strongest people I know because even trying to fathom it brings tears to my eyes.

In the US we worry about birth trauma and sleep training trauma and early weaning trauma and spanking trauma. We worry about things that, in the grand scheme of things, are so insignificant, and yet so specifically significant. And if such small, momentary matters can have such a great significance over one's life, then what about Paxton? What about his life? What about his trauma, so much greater than that of the vast majority of children in the US?

I do believe he will grow up alright, that he'll be a happy and successful boy, that he'll persevere.

But at the same time....

My God... how could such a tiny, teensy, innocent little child be forced to go through so much... how can we let this happen...