Before We Met Samuel

When we received our referral and were devastated when Brian’s plane  did not make it off the runway, leaving Brian unable to make it for court, court closure the following week for two months, and delaying Samuel’s homecoming for FOUR MONTHS- We felt like nothing would cheer us up.

I was browsing around adoption Blogs and found Becky’s Blog. She had blogged about her son, and how he was very shy at the orphanage. They brought in a friend for him to try to calm him down. I read the blog and they were sweetly complimenting his little friend that was building toys and happily playing next to their newest son. The pictures were not specifically taken of the other child because it isn’t legal and they weren’t there to see him, so the angles were not clear.

However, in one photo I noticed a scar underneath the little boy’s eye and I realized that I was looking at Samuel! My baby that I have never met was sitting with this family I did not know.

Samuel- purple polka dots!

See Here and Here

Through blogging and our WACAP board I was able to connect with them! It was such a blessing to be able to speak with Becky about our son and his mannerisms…his likes and his personality…..It got us through those four extra months.

We were able to hear what a special boy he truly is. We were also able to hear from Becky how he was doing well at the orphanage and there was no need for alarm.

We’ve made so many great friends in the adoption community that have been so supportive, and really got us through the inevitable challenges that all adoptive parents face through the process.

So that is a background on Becky. She is a great person and her adorable daughter is obsessed with lemurs! (a girl after my own heart!)

Becky has allowed me to use these pictures for World Breastfeeding Week of her with the Mursi tribe in Ethiopia.

Becky and her husband with a woman of the Mursi tribe breastfeeding her child.

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Adopting Out of Birth Order

I know some agencies allow this, and some don’t.

I understand why some agencies think it isn’t a good idea, but it definitely can be the right thing for some families.

We went into it knowing that it was going to be difficult, but we knew it was the right thing for our family. And we were right.

From our experience here are some of the pros and cons of adopting out of birth order:

Cons:
1. Attention: A child that is adopted is just as needing of attention as a newborn. It is so important! If you also have a child that is younger that is in need of a lot of attention it may be more difficult to figure out how to divide your time.

2. Development: Samuel came home not speaking english and also trying to figure out how to navigate through a new culture. Aram was his example. So, we had a four-year-old child copying a two-year-old. This got better as Samuel is understanding and speaking english. Also he realizes he is the older brother.

3. Household Responsibilities: Trying to figure out how to divide age-appropriate chores can be difficult. If you give a more difficult chore to the older child they can take it two ways: 1. they feel special that you have given them a bigger responsibility 2. They can feel you are singling them out in a negative way.

4. Discipline: Same predicament as “household responsibilities.” More can be expected out of an older child (especially if they have been home for a significant amount of time) but if you go easier on the younger child they may feel like you are showing favoritism.

Pros:

1.  Friendship: We now have two children around the same age that became best friends.

 

2. Skipping the Baby Stage: Some people revel in this time, some people don’t. Of course just as much care goes into caring for an adopted child that is older, but the issues you face will be different than “infant care,” and some people are much more capable of handling those kind of issues.

 

3. Adventure: both of out boys are old enough to really enjoy going out and exploring. We can go to museums, the beach, hiking, music festivals…ect. and they both get a lot out of it.

 

4. Leadership: I know that one of my cons was the opposite of this, but now that Samuel understands his role in the family he has been a great leader and teacher to Aram. he revels in knowing he is the “big brother” of the house.

“His Mother is Living, but Has No Source of Income to Support Him”

Watch out, I’ve been ranting a lot lately… you’ve caught me at the apex of my hormones this month.

“His mother is living, but has no source of income to support him”

Do you know how many referrals have some variation of this one there? A LOT. These children are no less in need of a home than the other “true” orphans that are in the orphanage. They should not be rejected by an adoptive family simply because there is a living relative that cannot afford to keep that child in the family. But there lies the huge problem.

A lot of people given these referrals have an initial instinct to try and financially help the family so they can remain intact. They are then told that Ethiopian government will not allow the child to go back to any parent in this manner. There is also the fear of legal consequences that could jeopardize the remaining family.

In Ethiopia, when a spouse dies (especially if it is the husband) the surviving spouse is left completely desolate. Widows or the impoverished do not have the same protection they do in the US. They are left with no other option than to put their child or children up for adoption.

It is common in a family of more than one child to put the youngest up for adoption. This is because they may be too young to work and they are more desirable to adopt. The family does not want this child to be separated, but they are left with no choice in their dire state.

I will say adoptive parents need to step in as advocates for change. We can argue that it is Ethiopian law and we are not Ethiopian….but you know what? By allowing international adoption, we have been adopted by Ethiopia, too. There should be some organized system to help these single-parent homes that are desolate and desperate to keep their families together.

Really, what is causing this orphan crisis? Illness and lack of funds if you break it down. That is not acceptable. We can do more.

Save a Mother Preserve a Family?

Adopting from Ethiopia made us realize how vital it was for Samuel that we stay extremely connected to Ethiopia. Not just the culture, but the actual country.

We understand the importance of taking trips as frequently as possible, and to put as much effort into causes we find important over there, as we do here.

Since having Aram, my goal has been aiding in reducing maternal mortality rates, particularly from hypertensive diseases of pregnancy in developing countries. I can’t imagine someone dying of something like Preeclampsia or HELLP Syndrome because of their geographical location.

Ethiopia is obviously close to our heart, and I’ve discovered the maternal mortality rate staggering. The most troubling part to me is how many children that end up in orphanages because there is only one living parent. To me, helping the orphan crisis is not about adopting, but about the biological parents being well (financially and healthfully)  to care for their children.

I started looking for nonprofits that were ethical and dedicated. This was so hard to find. Then I was introduced to the Liya Kebede Foundation by a friend in Los Angeles. I connected with them and I am so impressed by their professionalism and passion for what they are doing.
Here is some information on the foundation:

Liya Kebede is a supermodel that was born and raised in Ethiopia. She is now a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization. From her experiences with WHO she decided more needed to be done and started her own foundation. Her foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of mothers and children from pregnancy related causes.

Here is some information from their website:

Every minute, a woman dies from complications that arise during pregnancy or child birth and every minute, 20 children under the age of five years die. Most of these deaths could be prevented with access to basic health care.

Our Mission
There is something desperately wrong about dying while trying to give life.  The Liya Kebede Foundation is committed to ensuring that every woman, no matter where she lives, has access to life-saving care.  We work to educate policy makers and support programs that save lives in partnership with governments, non-governmental organizations, corporations and affected communities. Saving mothers’ lives requires the strategic coordination and deployment of resources, skilled doctors and midwives, ambulances, roads, clean sheets and basic medical tools, just to name a few.
We are dedicated to saving the next generation of mothers.
What We Do
We promote the use of proven, simple, low-cost strategies to save the lives of mothers and their children.
We educate health care workers and work to improve the quality and access to medical care for all mothers and children, no matter where they live.
We support community-based projects to improve knowledge and practices of maternal and child health in order to reduce illness and deaths.
We work to involve the public and advocate for policy makers and governments to invest in mothers’ lives.

So, they are pretty great. I wanted to do something, but I’m not sure what I could possibly do for them. I realized the party girl inside of me is still alive and kicking. I definitely can plan some pretty fun parties, and that gave me an idea. I am attempting to plan a charity event for them in the California Bay Area. Any interest in volunteering or attending, please contact me.

African Children: The Hottest Accessory For Rich White Women

Brian and I had no idea when moving to Beverly Hills how in-style we would be as adoptive parents.

Lately (aside from the park where everyone thinks he is a criminal), Brian has been mistaken for either an actor or a professional athlete – even with tourists coming up and snapping pictures of him.
He’d like to think it is his good looks…. but we quickly realized it is when he is out with Samuel that is triggering these cases of mistaken identity. (I, however, have only been mistaken for the babysitter….)

International and transracial adoptions are quickly sweeping over Hollywood.
Angelina Jolie, Katherine Heigl, and Madonna all recently adopted internationally.

Ethiopian adoptions doubled following Angelina Jolie’s adoption of her daughter.

So what is the harm in being inspired by celebrity adoptions? I guess nothing if you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Some people have argued that through this process all of the people doing it to be fashionable would be weeded out because it is so long and strenuous. I completely disagree.

If you have enough money, most of the adoption can be taken care of through your attorney with little to no fuss from the prospective adoptive parents.  Also, the waiting isn’t nearly as demanding if you’re not waiting for something your heart is aching for….and certain countries the wait is much less.

A good example of a “bad” adoption is Casey Johnson. She was the heiress of the J&J brand, and adopted a little girl from Kazakhstan. She originally tried to adopt from Cambodia (“inspired” by Angelina Jolie) but the country actually turned her away (hmm…) However, after another celebrity friend introduced her to her baby from Kazakhstan she was again inspired to adopt. This time the country let her go through.  Her daughter soon after adoption was quickly taken away from her, and went to live with her grandparents (Casey’s parents). Casey’s mother was afraid for the little girl’s safety living with her adopted mother. Casey was a drug addict and a complete train-wreck.  She ended up losing her life due to poor lifestyle choices.

In areas like Beverly Hills where it is important to someone’s wellbeing to be on trend, it would not be uncommon for such an outlandish objective.

The big concern is what happens when, like all fads, this one fades? Or, like in the case of Casey Johnson, the person is not fit to raise a child.

And adoption is becoming such a trend it is also blowing up in predominantly white churches across the nation.

I was talking to a friend that was questioning some of the motives of the people at the church she goes to, when it comes to international adoption.

She was complaining about suddenly being bombarded with “however-million-orphans minus one” videos, t-shirts, and other propaganda that either glorifies the parents or tries to push for international adoptions as a means to save a life.

**I personally, know people who have used that line in their videos and I think their motives were great for adopting, so please don’t be offended if you’re reading this**

I hope that any potential adoptive parents know:
if you’re doing this for any other reason that wanting a child in your family, you are in for a big wake-up call.

It is something almost anyone can do, but it doesn’t mean everyone should do it.

One Year Ago Today…

Oh wow, so much has happened in the past few years.

On this date three years ago I was admitted into the hospital with these symptoms: Preterm labor, mildly elevated blood pressure, and a nose bleed that wouldn’t stop. Little did I know I was in the early stages of gestational hypertension that would develop into HELLP Syndrome.

The 18th has always been a very sad day for me because it was the day I felt like a failure. My body couldn’t do what it was designed to do. It not only let me down, but it also let my baby down.

I read that in order to move forward from a traumatic event you need to replace the awful memories with something joyful.

Skip ahead two years and on the 18th my day had finally arrived. We received our referral.

I replaced the impression of unconcerned doctors, impudent nurses, and the generally anxious feeling that I may be dying (and no one was taking notice)- with this:


The realization that the earth didn’t stop, there was more life coming into my life, and this was helping build a family as result of my union with Brian… was the best present God could have given to me on that day.

June 18th is once again happy.

Breastfeed and adopted child!? Starting at four-years-old!?

Remember I said Samuel had weaned?

Well….


For the most part he is, but he occasionally likes to tandem nurse with Aram. And now that they collectively weigh as much as I do…..boy, it sure is relaxing for me to have them both on my lap at the same time…..


Again, I spoke too soon.

What have I learned from breastfeeding my Ethiopian four-year-old (some call this an “older” adoption) adopted child?

  • Every Ethiopian person I’ve encountered doesn’t blink an eye when they realize I breastfeed both boys at this age. One Ethiopian woman said- “If there is milk we use it!” She said breastfeeding eight-year-old children is not uncommon…(And biologically it is a normal length of time for primates)
  • Most Americans are horrified by it! (I’m thinking “nurse-in” in our future)
  • It has helped his attachment/bonding more than anything else we could have possibly done.
  • It helped my attachment and bonding to him.
  • It helped Aram understand Samuel’s role in the family and he was completely equal.
  • I now realize my hormones are going to be completely out of whack for the foreseeable future.

With all of the negatives and positives I see, I definitely think that there is great reason (sometimes even more than with a biological child) to practice extended breastfeeding with an adopted child.

I’M NOT THE BABYSITTER, but who is????

Meet Mali! The only person on the planet (aside from our parents and close relatives) that we trust with our boys.

She is quickly becoming part of the family.

She was born in Ethiopia, but moved to the US for school in the 1970s.

She goes to the same church as us, and is well-connected in the Ethiopian community (which we really appreciate)….

The boys are in love with her, and I am, too.

She’s coming over to teach me how to make doro wat! Finally, I’m going to tackle this beast of a recipe.

 

VARIETY OF ADOPTIVE PARENTS

Here is my (completely unPC) categorization of international adoptive parents (potential adoptive parents, take note):

  • The person who thinks she is “saving” the child
  • The trendsetter (adopting because it is the “in” thing)
  • The hippie
  • The white woman who thinks she is a long oppressed minority and must educated the dumb white masses (watch out for these ones)
  • the older couple on their second round of kiddos (stick with these people)
  • The infertile couple (sad set of circumstances, but some of the best outcomes and adoption stories)
  • The church couple (I say this like I’m not one, but you’ll get what I mean)
  • the anti-religious (more like anti-christian)…. (ugh, those people are testy if you say (GASP!) God…. and P.S. I don’t believe in the Boogie Man, but if you want to you can use his name all you want and I won’t be offended…. so, I don’t get what their problem is…)
  • The person who will bite your head off if you say almost anything. for instance, “Is he yours” …offended. “Did you adopt?” offended. “I think we may want another” offended (yes, “another” is inappropriate in the adoption world, apparently)

as a Christian, hippie, kind of infertile (thank you vasectomy) couple- I think we encompass a lot of what I just listed, so we are definitely admitted to the weirdo club.